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Rondo returns, Celtics win
Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green reacts after a 3-pointer during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Banknorth Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
BOSTON - The Boston Celtics welcomed Rajon Rondo back from his two-game suspension Wednesday night, the point guard helping his team turn in an impressive second-half performance in a 104-94 victory the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rondo, booted for two games by the NBA for starting the fracas with Kris Humphries and the Nets last week, scored 17 points (13 in the second half) and dished out 11 assists; starting a new streak of double-digit assist games after he had his run of 37 straight snapped with the ejection against Brooklyn.
Kevin Garnett, playing against his old team, had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes, but it was a spurt by Brandon Bass that turned the game around for the home team.
Bass, scoreless in the first half, was 5-for-5 from the floor and had 10 points, two blocks, a rebound and an assist in a third quarter that saw Boston outscore Minnesota 32-21 to take control of the game. Bass finished with 12 points.
Paul Pierce also scored 18 points, while Jason Terry also had 17 for the Celtics.
The Timberwolves, who won in Philadelphia Tuesday night, helped the Celtics by missing 22 of their first 31 free throws and were 14-for-30 for the game, as Minnesota's two-game winning streak ended.
Kevin Love led the Wolves with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Nikola Pekovic had 14 points and nine boards.
The Wolves led by four after a first half of runs by both teams. The Celtics had a 9-0 spurt midway through the first quarter, but Minnesota had a 10-0 soon after. In the second quarter, Boston ran off 10 in a row for a seven-point lead, but the T-Wolves answered with seven in a row to tie the game. The Wolves used a 9-2 run to take the lead into the locker room.
The Celtics then used a 9-0 run to go ahead for good in the third quarter.
Notes: Andrei Kirilenko, averaging 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, missed his fourth consecutive with back spasms, as Minnesota's laundry list of an injury report continues to grow. Among those out is guard Ricky Rubio, working his way back from knee surgery. ... Boston's Leandro Barbosa was active after missing Tuesday's practice with an illness. Coach Doc Rivers hoped not to use him, but he played 4.2 seconds of the third quarter. ... Rivers on Garnett/Minnesota: "I can guarantee that the people in Minnesota, they miss what he does in the locker room. They miss what he does on the floor in practice every day, his work ethic. He has this ability to give himself to a team. It's rare that you see a superstar do that, and he does that." ... Center Greg Stiemsma, a rookie with the Celtics last season, made his return with the Timberwolves. He scored shortly after entering the game late in the first quarter. ... The Celtics have a home-and-home series with Philadelphia coming up, Friday night in Philadelphia and Saturday in Boston. The Timberwolves are home for Cleveland on Friday night