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Celtics look to snap rare skid, host Timberwolves

Dec 21, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts after being fouled during the fourth quarter of a game against the Indiana Pacers at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a homestand to forget for the Boston Celtics. Three games in, no wins.

After a rousing second-half comeback in Wednesday’s 117-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics will look to break their skid when the Minnesota Timberwolves make their lone visit to Boston on Friday night.

“We have to learn how to win again,” Jayson Tatum said. “I think it’s not as simple as that, but we gotta get back to having fun. I think we’re playing a little timid, a little tight. … And as a group, we can’t let it snowball.”

The Celtics have lost five of their last six games and three straight. The latter is their longest regular-season losing streak since last December.

Against Indiana, Boston trailed 71-43 at halftime before getting back into the game with a 42-point third quarter, but Tyrese Haliburton (33 points) and the Pacers proved to be too much.

Tatum, who had missed Sunday’s game against Orlando (personal reasons), scored 28 of his game-high 41 points in the second half.

As for moving forward, Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said, “We have a choice to make: What team do we want to be? The team we were in the first half or the second half?

“I thought we did a good job just putting pressure on the rim and making the right read,” Mazzulla added. “That was important that we kept playing with pace and force and we did a great job in the third quarter of coming back defensively.”

At this point, Celtics players feel there is little to worry about.

Boston has spent most of the season atop the NBA standings, only recently being passed by the Milwaukee Bucks.

“We’re disappointed in ourselves, but I don’t think there’s concern,” guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “I think we need a sense of urgency, and I think we’re starting to get that. I think that second half shows us we can have and play with a sense of urgency, and I think we will.”

On Wednesday, Boston missed point guard Marcus Smart due a non-COVID illness.

The Timberwolves start a four-game road trip in Boston. They had won three in a row before Wednesday’s 104-99 loss to Dallas, a game in which neither team led by more than eight points.

The difference? A run of five straight Mavericks 3-pointers to erase the Timberwolves’ three-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve just got to be there, man,” Minnesota’s Austin Rivers said. “They hit (five) corner threes in a row. Just totally changed the game. Otherwise, we win (Wednesday).”

Minnesota did not break the 25-point mark in three of the four quarters.

“Thought we created a lot of really good chances at times throughout the game, missed a lot of really good shots, particularly when we had a cushion, when we could have taken a four-point game to a double-digit game,” coach Chris Finch said. “But sometimes that happens.”

Anthony Edwards scored 23 points and Rivers had 21 for Minnesota, which split a two-game home set with Dallas after winning 116-106 on Monday.

In the series opener, Edwards neared a triple-double with 27 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Mavericks star Luka Doncic and coach Jason Kidd were both ejected from that game.

Rudy Gobert returned from a three-game absence (sprained left ankle) on Wednesday, recording his third straight double-double and 12th of the season with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Minnesota was without five of its top 11 scorers in the Monday game.

–Field Level Media