BOSTON - It was just after halftime at Boston's TD Garden that any Timberwolves momentum garnered during a two-game winning streak ran straight into a wall.
One day, and what a difference.
Everything went right for the Wolves on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Wednesday against the Celtics, at least one part of the winning formula went away:
The Wolves led by four points at halftime, but a second-half meltdown resulted in a 104-94 loss to the Celtics, the Wolves' 11th loss in a row to Boston.
Strip everything else away -- the occasional sputters on offense and a horrendous night (14-for-30) at the free throw line -- what hurt the Wolves on Wednesday was defense.
Or a lack of it.
"They were making a lot of shots," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I can't tell you [what went wrong] until I look at it, but I thought we were playing well. But in the second half they took control."
Blame one man: Rajon Rondo.
Rondo was one of five Celtics starters to score in double figures. He had 17 points and 11 assists. The Celtics were led by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who scored 18 points each. Kevin Love had 19 for the Wolves. Nikola Pekovic had 14 and Josh Howard had 12.
It was the play of Rondo, back after serving a two-game suspension, that got the Celtics going after a lethargic first half. The Celtics scored 32 third-quarter points on 14-for-21 shooting. Even on a night when the Celtics shot 52.6 percent overall, that stood out.
You can blame the Wolves playing on consecutive nights, while the Celtics were rested. Still, the Wolves just couldn't get a stop in the third quarter.
Of course, allowing all those open shots didn't help.
Forward Brandon Bass, left wide open, scored 10 of his 12 points in the quarter, a 12-minute stretch in which four Celtics players scored five or more points. By the time the quarter ended, the Celtics led 79-72. An 11-3 run to start the fourth quarter gave Boston a 15-point lead.
"We had a good first half," said Love, who scored 19 points and had 13 rebounds but shot 6-for-15 and missed six of 12 free throws. "And then they came out and I mean, Rondo took control. He set them up, made plays for them. That was very telling for the game."
The 32 points were the most by a Wolves opponent in the third quarter this season. But the Celtics also outrebounded the Wolves and had a 15-9 edge on points off turnovers.
"They just scored. A lot," guard J.J. Barea said. "They just did a good job of hitting open shots. Basically, they were more aggressive in every aspect of the game."
And then there were the free throws. The Wolves lost by 10 and missed 16 free throws. But the fact is, the Wolves needed to defend better.
"We were able to get some things off our sets," Love said. "But they just made plays and got stops when it counted. It was one of those types of games, where the ball didn't find the bottom of the basket when we needed it."
The Wolves will have a day off before hosting Cleveland on Friday. Wednesday, the Wolves looked like a team that needed a break.
"It's part of the NBA schedule, where we go back-to-back and they have three days off," Adelman said. "We knew they'd come out and take it to us. They turned it up a notch, and we didn't have enough to respond to it."