Jared Sullinger wasn't about to let the Boston Celtics lose this one.
The second-year forward scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 101-97, on Monday night. Sullinger added 11 rebounds and five assists.
While Boston led for most of this contest, this went down to the wire, with the largest advantage of the game being nine.
Kevin Love posted another double-double, tallying 27 points and 14 rebounds, but this was really a nightmarish outing for the star big man. He went 9-of-26 from the floor and hit on only two of his 11 three-point tries. He also missed four free throws despite having made 25 of his last 26 coming into Monday night's matchup.
The C's shot 44 percent from the floor to the Timberwolves' 38 percent, and despite only forcing seven turnovers and enduring foul trouble for most of the game, Brad Stevens' feisty ballclub was able to hang on.
Let's break down the keys to this contest.
Jared Sullinger Had a Man's Game
You look at Minnesota's frontcourt of Love and Nikola Pekovic, and you'd think they'd have the edge on any given night.
Well, don't tell that to Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger was an absolute animal in this one, actually bullying the burly Pekovic and Love inside and overpowering Gorgui Dieng when the Wolves rookie was assigned to defend the Celtics big man.
With the game in the balance, Sullinger hit a huge three from straightaway to put Boston up 95-92. He then came up with some huge rebounds and hit numerous big free throws down the stretch (he went 9-of-11 from the charity stripe overall) to put the team on his back and lead it to victory.
To put it plainly, Sullinger took over the game down the stretch.
This was one of the most impressive performances of Sullinger's young career, a career that will likely forge many of these types of dominant outings.
For those of you who may not know, a "Tommy Point" is a distinction that Celtics broadcaster and former star Tommy Heinsohn awards to Boston players whenever they make a hustle play.
Well, there were so many hustle plays tonight that Heinsohn may have run out of Tommy Points to give.
The best part? Most of that hustle came from the rookies, with Kelly Olynyk and Phil Pressey sacrificing their bodies to preserve possessions and create second opportunities. Olynyk himself saved three possessions in the third quarter, and Pressey played dogged defense on J.J. Barea in what was probably Pressey's best game as a pro.
Kris Humphries also put in some very productive minutes off the bench, playing great D on Love and Pekovic and chipping in eight points and seven boards in 21 minutes.
Finally, despite having a size disadvantage up front, the C's nearly played the Timberwolves to a draw on the glass, with Minnesota only outrebounding them by one (51-50).
Poor Three-Point Shooting for Minnesota
The Wolves shot a paltry 8-of-29 from downtown in this one, with Love missing nine on his own. Corey Brewer went 0-for-3, and Alexey Shved misfired on four of his six attempts.
One criticism I've always had of Love is that he spends too much time on the perimeter and ends up hurting his team, and that was evident on Monday night. He didn't have the three-ball going, and yet, he insisted on jacking up bombs in a close game.
This was definitely a night to forget for the MVP candidate.
Missed Free Throws
The Timberwolves were fortunate enough to get 26 free throws, but they dropped the ball, hitting only 15 of them.
Love missed four, Pekovic went 1-of-4 and then there were assorted misses throughout the rest of the lineup.
You can't expect to win a game when you shoot 38 percent from the floor, go 8-of-29 from three and miss 11 free throws. The only reason why Minnesota remained in this one for the entirety of the contest was because it only turned the ball over seven times.