In a battle between quiet rivals, the Minnesota Timberwolves held on to defeat the Boston Celtics by a score of 110-100. Although former T-Wolves star Kevin Garnett was absent due to injury, the tensions were high.
So how did Minnesota walk away with the upset victory?
Boston started out hot, going on a 7-2 run behind Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass' offensive output. With Nikola Pekovic working inside against an undermanned Boston frontcourt, however, the T-Wolves managed to storm back and take the lead.
With 15 first-quarter points, Pekovic helped create a 27-25 advantage.
Chase Budinger and J.J. Barea opened up the second quarter with consecutive three-point field goals, thus setting the stage for another convincing period of play. With Pekovic continuing to anchor the interior, the T-Wolves outscored Boston by a mark of 30-27.
At the half, it was 57-52 with the Celtics displaying no signs of defensive improvement.
Behind Andrei Kirilenko, the T-Wolves extended their lead to 14 points with just 4:26 remaining in the third quarter. With Jason Terry and Terrence Williams leading the charge, however, Boston battled back.
At the end of three, Boston had cut the lead to 84-78.
Come the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves continued to pile on the pressure. Behind Alexey Shved and Derrick Williams, Minnesota jumped to a 12-4 run, thus making it 96-82.
Boston never got it back down to single digits.
Player of the Game: Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Nikola Pekovic was marvelous, exploiting Boston's lack of interior depth and attacking the hoop for 29 points. Not only did he work it inside to shoot 9-of-15 from the floor, but he drew fouls at virtual will.
Pekovic was a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Pekovic, a 73.3 percent free-throw shooter coming in, complemented his 11 freebies with five boards. With 15 first quarter points, he also set the stage for this victory, altogether.
This was nothing short of a superb performance by Minnesota's interior powerhouse.
What's Next for Boston
With this loss, the Boston Celtics fall to 38-36 overall and 13-25 on the road. They're now 1.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Up next, Boston heads home for an April 3 showdown against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics have lost to the Pistons in both of their previous battles in 2012-13.
What's Next for Minnesota
The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up a rare win, as they move to 27-46 overall and 18-19 at home. They're 11.0 games out of eighth in the Western Conference, thus becoming mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.
Up next, they have a road game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Minnesota won their first game by a score of 95-85 on Nov. 30.