BOSTON – Almost always clichéd in any given situation, the words Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler chose after his team’s 91-84 loss at Boston actually rang true Friday night.
“That’s how the ball bounces sometime,” he said.
That’s how it bounces when you meet an opponent that shoots as many threes and at such range as the Celtics do.
On Friday, the team that leads the Eastern Conference came in out of the cold after a Nor’easter snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow across Boston on Thursday. The Celtics finally warmed up after the Wolves allowed them chance upon chance as the visitors made two of their first 11 shots from the field and the home team started 1-for-7.
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns set a career rebounding high with his 25-point, 23-rebound performance, but it was the Celtics’ 17 offensive rebounds as much as anything that sent the Wolves to consecutive losses for the first time since before Thanksgiving.
The Celtics’ long shots — 36 attempted and just six made — and long bouncing rebounds changed a game in which the Wolves led by seven points with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
Trailing 55-48, the Celtics reversed course with an 18-7 run — including nine of the final 11 points — that ended the third quarter. The Celtics then kept the Wolves away in a fourth quarter when they needed three three-point tries in one possession before Terry Rozier’s made three gave his team a 77-68 lead with 8:02 left.
“You can’t give a team like that two and three cracks at it, particularly in the fourth quarter,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Wolves never pulled closer than six points again.
“We just have to do better tracking down long rebounds as a whole,” Butler said. “We talked about how many trey balls they were going to put up and how many long rebounds there would be. We just had to make sure we make a conscious effort to go get them. We can’t rely on KAT to get every single rebound.”
But oh, how Towns tried to keep the Celtics from winning their fifth consecutive game.
“It definitely felt like a playoff game,” Towns said. “Sold-out crowd, you know a lot on the line for us, trying to avoid back-to-back losses.”
It was Towns’ fourth career 20-20 game. It was his league-leading 32nd double-double this season and he had one in each half.
“He was hooping tonight,” Wolves point guard Tyus Jones said. “He did everything for us.”
It also wasn’t enough to keep the Wolves from losing at Brooklyn and Boston on this short two-game trip in which their only victory was getting into Boston before Thursday’s snowstorm hit.
The Wolves hadn’t lost consecutive games since Detroit and Charlotte beat them home-and-away on consecutive nights nearly seven weeks ago.
“It’s tough,” Jones said. “It’s something we pride ourselves on, not dropping back-to-back games. We’ll win a lot of games if you we can avoid those.”
Jones was in foul trouble much of the night, so backup Aaron Brooks played 15 meaningful minutes. Butler’s streak of nine consecutive 20-point games ended after he went 3-for-12 from the field and scored 14 points.
“Nobody wants to lose, not two in a row, let alone three or four,” Butler said. “But you come in here, it’s a really, really, really good team on their floor. You have to play damn near perfect basketball in order to get a win, and I don’t think we did that.”
• Friday was the first day teams could sign free agents to 10-day contracts. The Wolves could use one to add another point guard while starter Jeff Teague heals from a Grade 1 knee MCL sprain but didn’t do so on Friday.
• Butler reached 20 points in nine consecutive games until Friday. He averaged 28.9 points on 52.3 percent shooting in those nine games, and Wednesday’s 30-point game at Brooklyn was his seventh 30-point game this season. He entered the game 18th in the NBA in scoring (21.8 ppg), eighth in steals (1.86) and 28th in assists (4.9).