Kyrie Irving returns, Celtics beat Timberwolves 117-109

Boston Celtics's Al Horford, center, of Dominican Republic, pulls in a rebound as Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones, left, and Andrew Wiggins, right, watch in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 8, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Jim Mone

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kyrie Irving returned from a one-game absence to help Boston fend off Minnesota, finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists to pace the Celtics in a 117-109 victory over the Timberwolves on Thursday night.

Irving, the five-time All-Star whose first season with the Celtics has been stellar save for some minor injuries, was good to go after sitting out at Chicago on Monday to rest a sore left knee that was aggravated in the previous game.

Al Horford added 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and tough defense on Karl-Anthony Towns for the Celtics, who stayed two games behind Toronto in the Eastern Conference race with their sixth win in seven games. They have three more losses than the Raptors.

Marcus Morris added 17 points for the Celtics, whose victory was tempered a bit by the hard landing Jaylen Brown took on his back after a dunk late in the third quarter. He left with 14 points for evaluation of concussion-like symptoms.

Nemanja Bjelica scored a career-high 30 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range. His first 20-10 game in the NBA was ultimately wasted in the third straight loss for the Timberwolves, who are still trying to find their way without injured All-Star Jimmy Butler.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists to help Oklahoma City rout Phoenix.

Paul George added 21 points, Corey Brewer had 17, Steven Adams 16, and Carmelo Anthony 11. Brewer replaced Josh Huestis in the starting lineup and responded with a 6-for-11 performance from the floor.

Devin Booker, wearing a headband for the first time in his three-year NBA career, had 30 points for Phoenix. He had 39 last week in Arizona in a loss to the Thunder.

HEAT 108, 76ERS 99

MIAMI (AP) — Hassan Whiteside scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade added 16 and Miami beat Philadelphia to move a step closer to the playoffs.

Josh Richardson scored 13 points, Tyler Johnson had 12 and Kelly Olynyk added 10 to help the Heat stay No. 7 in the Eastern Conference and move within a game of No. 6 Philadelphia.

Dario Saric had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Allen Crabbe made his first six 3-point attempts and finished with 29 points and eight rebounds, helping Brooklyn beat Charlotte to snap a four-game losing streak.

Caris Levert scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 18 points and 12 rebounds to provide a spark off the bench for the Nets.

Kemba Walker had 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting for the Hornets. They've lost five straight.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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