The Celtics had lost four in a row and were without four members of their starting five heading into Saturday afternoon’s game.
Luckily, their opponent was the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves, and Jayson Tatum and a makeshift rotation cruised to a 124-108 win.
No Jaylen Brown, no Kemba Walker, no Marcus Smart, no Rob Williams – no problem. Tatum tossed in 26 points with 11 rebounds to lead the way as his teammates rested injuries ahead of next week’s play-in tournament.
It was actually Minnesota with the early 7-point lead, as Karl-Anthony Towns scored seven of the Wolves’ first nine points. However, Boston quickly reversed the tide, with little resistance from their defensively-challenged opponent. Tatum had 11 first quarter points, and Boston exited the opening period with an 11-point lead.
They’d increase that lead to 19 at the half, with Evan Fournier and Payton Pritchard combining for seven first half three-pointers. Boston knocked down 13 of 30 long balls in the opening 24 minutes.
While Towns had a double-double after two quarters, the writing was on the wall and Boston sailed home in the second half for the victory.
Fournier finished with 18 points and six assists. Pritchard had four steals, Luke Kornet had four blocks, and Tremont Waters made the most of his court time with 14 points and seven assists in 22 minutes.
Towns had 24 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. Anthony Edwards posted 23 points.
Next up, the Celtics close out the regular season with a Sunday matinee against the Knicks, who are looking to improve their playoff seed and could finish anywhere between fourth and sixth in the East. Tipoff is at 1:00 p.m., with pregame coverage starting at 12:30 on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Boston’s opponent for the play-in tournament next week is still unknown. The Pacers lost to the Lakers, and the Hornets squandered an opportunity to grab the eighth seed in an overtime loss to New York. The Celtics will host either Indiana, Charlotte or Washington next week for the right to face the 2-seed in the opening round of the playoffs.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.