BOSTON – Missing three starters, the Boston Celtics nonetheless ushered the Timberwolves into Monday’s good night 113-99 losers with a barrage of made three-point shots and a victory-cigar scoreboard video that took Kevin Garnett back to his championship days at TD Garden.
Whether the Wolves were a step slow physically while playing their fifth game in seven nights or a mile behind philosophically, their short two-game winning streak ended after the Celtics outscored them 36-6 on made three-pointers.
The Celtics substituted big men David Lee and Kelly Olynyk for recently injured Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson, kept point guard Isaiah Thomas in the lineup for the still-injured Marcus Smart and simply overwhelmed the Wolves with their energy and three-point shooting, with Olynyk going 3-for-3.
The hometown fans went home happy, both with both a resounding victory and the moment for which they had chanted since late in the first quarter: Garnett’s acknowledgment of their love during a late-game timeout, when he came off the bench after resting all night in a back-to-back game and reciprocated by tapping his chest over his heart, and with a quick salute.
What began late in the first quarter as loud “We Want KG” chants transformed late in the game into “Thank you, KG.”
Before deflecting a question whether this might have been his last appearance in Boston as a player, Garnett addressed what he called a “love that’s unconditional” in a city where he played six seasons and won his only NBA title in 2008.
“I definitely heard all the chants, everybody,” he said. “It meant everything. I like to say Minnesota made me a young man. I grew up when I came to Boston. I learned a lot … Boston has always had a special place in my heart and always will. Tonight wasn’t the outcome the way I wanted it to be, but it was a great homecoming. It felt really good to be in the building.”
Intending to build off their past 10 quarters and consecutive victories over Sacramento and Brooklyn, the Wolves instead trailed by 11 points late in the first half and by as many as 22 early in the fourth quarter.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called a timeout with 62 seconds remaining so he could sub out his starters. The moment became a perfect stage for nostalgia when the arena video board played 1970s “American Bandstand” footage of a bearded dancing man now known to generations of Celtics fans as “Gino” for the T-shirt he wore.
Garnett came onto the court, touched by the roaring ovation and tickled by the same video, set to the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing,” to which he, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen once celebrated blowout victories.
“The cherry on top,” Garnett said. “My teammates were asking what is this and I was like, ‘I’ll explain later.’ Thank you for whoever put Gino up there. I appreciate that. I really wanted them to stop [the chants] because I did not know if Sam [Mitchell] was actually going to put me in.”