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The Sports Xchange, Published December 16 2013

Celtics top Timberwolves in Boston

BOSTON – The surprising first-place Boston Celtics moved closer to the .500 mark by pulling out a 101-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

The win, Boston’s second straight and eighth in the past 12 games, raised the Celtics, a team that was expected to be fighting for a lottery spot, to 12-14 on the season.

Forward/center Jared Sullinger hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Boston ahead to stay with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left. He went 4-for-6 from the foul line over the final 17.9 seconds to put the game away.

The Timberwolves, playing without guard Kevin Martin (knee) and his average of 20.6 points per game, fell to 12-13.

Sullinger led Boston with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Guard Avery Bradley, who scored the first six points of the game, had 19 points and five rebounds, and guard Jordan Crawford added 15 points for the Celtics. The Boston bench chipped in with 35 points.

Forward Kevin Love, who had a poor shooting night (9-for-26 from the floor, 2-for-11 from 3-point range), led the Timberwolves with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Timberwolves reserve guard J.J. Barea, a Northeastern University product, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.

The Minnesota bench scored 45 points.

The Celtics earned their seventh consecutive home win in the interconference series.

Rookie forward/center Kelly Olynyk, 4-for-22 from 3-point range entering the game, drained both of his long-range attempts in the first half as the Celtics built an early nine-point lead. Boston had to hold off the Wolves to lead by one at halftime.

The visitors, who had 10 offensive rebounds in the half, hurt themselves at the foul line, going 11-for-19 in the first two quarters. Both trends continued in the third quarter, when the Celtics grabbed the lead with a 9-0 spurt and led by five at the end of three.

The win raised the Celtics’ record on their current five-game homestand to 2-1.