BOSTON (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to help the Boston Celtics pull away for a 121-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night that halted their season-worst three-game losing streak.
Jayson Tatum had 30 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Derrick White scored 18 and Al Horford finished with 17 points for the Celtics.
“It felt good. It felt really good,” Brown said of his fourth quarter. “Obviously, I felt like it was just a matter of time. The first three quarters is probably one of the ugliest stretches of basketball in my career.”
Boston won for only the second time in seven games but moved back atop the NBA standings.
“The second half last game and the fourth quarter are the best version of our team,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said.
Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with 30 points, D’Angelo Russell scored 21 and Jaden McDaniels had 17. It was Minnesota’s second consecutive loss.
“We’ve got to up our intensity, physicality and everything, execution in the fourth quarter,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “That’s where they really came through.”
Boston point guard Marcus Smart had 10 assists, seven rebounds and six points after missing a game with an illness, but center Robert Williams III was out sick.
Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was held to eight points, but he grabbed 12 rebounds in his second game after sitting out three with a sprained left ankle.
Brown had a breakaway jam and followed that with a layup, giving the Celtics a 108-98 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to play.
After a free throw by Gobert, Brown nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and Horford connected on one 31 seconds later, making it 114-99.
Horford’s buzzer-beating 3 from right in front of his team’s bench gave Boston an 88-86 edge entering the fourth.
Following a poor performance Wednesday when Boston fell behind by 30 in the opening half before a comeback bid against Indiana came up short, Mazzulla issued a bit of a challenge.
“We have a choice to make: What team do we want to be?” he said after that game.
Boston responded with a solid start before Minnesota went on a 22-7 run.
“From the jump we were physical, we were tough, we were connected,” Mazzulla said.
Timberwolves: Russell, in his 10th NBA season, surpassed 8,000 career points. … Naz Reid was whistled for a technical when he got up in Brown’s face after he fouled him on a basket. Reid also got a Flagrant 1 for being in Tatum’s landing space in the third quarter. … Finch got a technical in the fourth.
Celtics: White scored nine points in a three-minute stretch early in the third that erased a nine-point deficit. … Tatum entered the arena just before the starting lineups were announced and played with a small wrap to support his left thumb. … Brown went down hard midway through the second but stayed in. “I took a shot to the face and had some blood coming out,” Brown said. “It was just an aggressive game. Give credit to Minnesota. They came out and were trying to take advantage of our energy and how we’ve been playing the last couple of games.”
Timberwolves: At the Miami Heat on Monday night, the second stop on a four-game road swing.
Celtics: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas.
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