Celtics look to stop backward momentum vs. Wolves

NBA Basketball

Unable to stop their season-ending free fall, the Boston Celtics look to salvage some momentum heading into the play-in round when they visit the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday afternoon.

Once as high the fourth seed, the Celtics (35-35) have sputtered and succumbed to injury down the stretch. Boston was locked into a spot in the play-in tournament after its 102-94 loss in Cleveland on Wednesday night.

The loss to the Cavaliers was Boston’s fourth straight loss and ninth in 13 games. The seventh-place Celtics will host the eighth-place finisher in a play-in game Tuesday night for the right to earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.

“This season has been (like) a bunch of curveballs,” said Celtics center Tristan Thompson, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in the loss to his former team. “The injury bug has definitely hit us, and has hit us hard. … At the end of the day, it’s got to be next-man-up mentality.”

Boston will be without All-Star forward Jaylen Brown for the remainder of the season after he was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left wrist. Brown underwent successful surgery on Wednesday and is expected to resume basketball activities in three to six months.

The Celtics were without guards Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart as well as center Robert Williams against Cleveland. Smart sat out with a right calf contusion while Williams was sidelined with left foot turf toe.

Walker, who has not played the second end of back-to-backs this season to manage a chronic left knee injury, is likely to return against the Timberwolves.

Minnesota (22-48) is playing for pride – or perhaps to impress its new reported ownership group headed by former baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, the Timberwolves have been playing some of their best basketball of late. Minnesota has won six of its last 10 games since being officially eliminated on April 22.

The NBA’s most recent No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards matched his career-high of 42 points during that stretch, on May 5 against Memphis. Edwards, tied as the Timberwolves’ third-leading scorer at 19.1 points per game, has averaged 24.4 points in the team’s last 10 games.

Edwards logged his 34th game with 20 or more points in Thursday’s 114-103 home loss to Denver, passing Christian Laettner for the franchise record for 20-point games by a rookie.

“I just felt like it was go time,” said Edwards, who scored 18 of his team-high 29 points in the third quarter. “I think most of us, the season has ended for us. But I think we’ve got to fix that the next two games, come out and show that we still want to win.”

The Timberwolves fell 145-136 to the Celtics in a wild overtime affair in their first meeting April 9 in Boston.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum scored a then career-high 53 points, with 18 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points and 12 rebounds, D’Angelo Russell scored 26 off the bench and Edwards added 24 in the defeat.

–Field Level Media

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