NBA Basketball

Celtics maintain home dominance vs. Wolves

(TSX / STATS) -- BOSTON -- Karl-Anthony Towns was 9 years old the last time the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Celtics in Boston.

Now, thanks to the work of Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas, the talented young big man will have to wait until at least next season for it to happen.

Horford had his best game in a while Wednesday as the Celtics handled the Wolves 117-104, their 11th consecutive home victory over Minnesota.

"We needed (Horford) to be locked in tonight because Towns is a real talented guy, and so Al had that assignment on the other end for a lot of the game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Horford just missed his second career triple-double (for the second time this month), finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He shot 9 of 12 from the floor and also blocked two shots. Horford was pulled with 5:03 left and wasn't needed thereafter.

Thomas scored 27 points, Avery Bradley had 18, and Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart both scored 10 off the Boston bench. Olynyk added six rebounds.

"The guys were finding me a lot in the pick-and-roll action, and I was able to make plays," said Horford, who has 47 points, 21 rebounds and 16 assists in the past three games. "That's how I like to play, and I felt they really played through me a lot."

Said Bradley: "He's probably the best passer on our team, one of the best passers in the NBA to me. His playmaking ability is amazing."

Thomas, the NBA's second-leading scorer, reached a milestone in the game, becoming only the fourth player to record 200 3-pointers and 500 made free throws in a season. James Harden has done it three straight years, including this one, while Gilbert Arenas did it twice and Paul Pierce did it -- for the Celtics -- in 2001-02.

The Celtics, who haven't lost to the Timberwolves in Boston since March 6, 1995, used a 21-6 run bridging the halves and rode to their 10th win in their past 11 home games.

They are 23-9 at home and have a heavy home schedule as they continue to try to hold onto the second spot in the Eastern Conference and also chase the Cavaliers for the top spot. They ended the night a game and a half ahead of the Washington Wizards and two behind Cleveland.

Ricky Rubio led the Timberwolves, trying to claw their way into the Western Conference playoff picture, with 23 points and seven assists. Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad both scored 21 points, and Towns posted 17 points and 14 rebounds.

The 17 points ended Towns' run of consecutive 20-point games at 21, second in the league this season to Thomas' 43.

"They put pressure on us to make shots, and we just missed," Townes said.

Rubio said of Horford, "He's a great player. That's why they signed him here -- to make a difference for that team."

The Celtics hit 13 3-pointers, giving them 26 straight games with at least 10, one shy of tying the record set by the Houston Rockets earlier this season.

Wiggins and Towns combined for 38 points but fell nine-plus points under their season average. On Sunday, the Celtics held Chicago's Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, hitting 42.6 points per game coming in, to a total of 13.

The Celtics led by nine in the first quarter but fell behind by 10 in the second. They used a late 7-0 burst to tie the game with 33 seconds left in the first half, but Rubio gave his team a two-point halftime lead with a jumper with 17 seconds left.

The Wolves saw both Nemanja Bjelica and Lance Stephenson exit with injuries during the game.

"It's big," Rubio said of losing Bjelica, who had three points and four rebounds in 11:19 of playing time and left the building on crutches wearing a boot. "He's been giving us good minutes. You see tonight how it was when he went out."

Stephenson had just come off the bench and played 2:05 before going down with a leg injury. He had to be helped off the court and to the locker room.

NOTES: Celtics coach Brad Stevens, asked pregame about Wolves C Karl-Anthony Towns, said, "He been a joke since he's been in the league in my opinion." He meant it in a good way. ... Celtics G Isaiah Thomas extended his club record by making a 3-pointer in his 44th straight game. ... Guerschon Yabusele, the No. 16 overall pick by Boston in last year's draft, was visiting after his season in China ended. He was in town to have his ankle examined. "It was a great experience for me to go over there as an import player," he said. "It was actually a great season." ... The Wolves continue their three-game road trip at Miami on Friday night, while Celtics visit Brooklyn on Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday before starting a six-game homestand.

Updated March 16, 2017

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