LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier combined for 32 points as Boston’s reserves keyed the Celtics’ 91-84 NBA victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
In a hard-fought contest that included 15 lead changes, the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics finally turned the tide late in the third quarter to post their fifth straight win.
Boston had missed 12 of their first 14 shots of the third and were down 55-48 with less than five minutes left in the period.
But they made eight of their next 11 shots, closing out the third on a 17-7 scoring run.
The Celtics withstood a 25-point, 23-rebound performance from Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns.
Smart’s 18 points on eight-of-13 shooting led the Celtics and Rozier added 14 off the bench as Boston’s reserves out-scored Minnesota’s 42-20.
Star guard Kyrie Irving led Boston’s starters with 16 points and also pulled down nine rebounds and eight assists.
Irving’s finger-roll layup with 1.6 seconds left in the third pushed the Celtics’ advantage to 66-62 and they wouldn’t surrender the lead in the final quarter.
‘‘Tonight was one of those games where every last one of us from the starters to the guys coming in off the bench were ready,’’ Smart said.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was pleased to see his team hang on despite their offensive struggles.
‘‘To win a game like that against a really good team when you can’t make a shot – that’s a good thing,’’ Stevens said. ‘‘You’re going to have nights like that. You’ve just got to find a way.’’
The Toronto Raptors used a big third quarter – including 20 points from Jonas Valanciunas – to beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time in five days, 129-110.
Valanciunas, benched in the second quarter after finding himself in quick foul trouble and failing to score in the first, responded in the third, when the Raptors out-scored the Bucks 43-19.
‘‘He was masterful as far as getting position, using his size and strength in the paint and just doing a good job of rebounding the ball, old school, going to get the ball, rebounding, putting it back and getting and-ones,’’ Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Valanciunas, who was just two points off Kyle Lowry’s club record for points in a quarter.
Heat hang on
The Miami Heat, who endured an embarrassing 29-point defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks in November, turned the tables with a 107-103 overtime triumph.
Wayne Ellington led Miami with 24 points and made six of a franchise-record 16 three-point attempts.
Overall the Heat set a club record for three-pointers attempted, making 12 of 42 from beyond the arc.
Goran Dragic had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. Josh Richardson’s 18 points included six free throws late in regulation and in overtime.
It was close at the end in Memphis, where the Washington Wizards edged the Grizzlies 102-100 as the hosts’ late rally fell short.
Bradley Beal scored 34 points with five rebounds and five assists while John Wall added 25 points, nine assists, and four steals for the Wizards, who led by as many as 17 points in the third.
Up by 15 going into the fourth period, the Wizards suddenly went cold and Memphis roared back, slicing the deficit to one point with 18.4 seconds left.
Free throws from Beal and Mark Morris saw the Wizards stretch the advantage back to five points before Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans drained a three-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.
More misery for Lakers
The Charlotte Hornets sent the Lakers spinning to a ninth straight defeat, 108-94 in Los Angeles.
The return of rookie guard Lonzo Ball from injury couldn’t lift the Lakers, who endured their third straight loss by double digits and heard boos from home fans when they fell behind by as many as 25 points.
Memphis 100, Washington 102
Miami 107, New York 103 (OT)
LA Lakers 94, Charlotte 108
Dallas 124, Chicago 127
San Antonio 103, Phoenix 89
Portland 110, Atlanta 89
Denver 99, Utah 91
Milwaukee 110, Toronto 129
Philadelphia 114, Detroit 78
Boston 91, Minnesota 84