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Timberwolves 106, Celtics 88

Celtics stumble, fall again

No knocking down Minnesota’s big men

The Celtics scored just 9 points off Minnesota’s 13 turnovers.

Jim Mone/Associated Press

The Celtics scored just 9 points off Minnesota’s 13 turnovers.

MINNEAPOLIS — According to Jeff Green, the Celtics’ 106-88 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves here Saturday did not require an explanation of “War and Peace” length.

It did not demand a rationalization that covered all the bases, providing the Celtics’ fanbase with some “a-ha!” moment of clarity as to how exactly their team, now 4-7, came to lose its third consecutive game.

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“We played like [expletive], plain and simple,” the Celtics forward said.

And he included himself chief among those in that category after an abysmal 0-for-6 shooting performance in which his only points — all 2 of them — came from the free throw stripe.

“I just played like [expletive],” he said. “There’s nothing they did to disrupt me in my game. I just didn’t perform the way I wanted to. It’s on me. I’ve just got to figure out a way to play through me missing shots and not getting calls. I’ve just got to figure out a way to play through it.”

The rest of the Celtics, who suffered their second straight double-digit loss, would do well to figure out a way to play through hard times, if only because this season will serve up plenty of them.

The Celtics didn’t help their own cause with 22 turnovers for which the Timberwolves were most grateful, turning all that charity into 28 points.

On the other end, the Celtics scored just 9 points off Minnesota’s 13 turnovers.

Then again, one wonders if the Timberwolves, now 7-4, needed any help from the Celtics for this contest at the Target Center, for they already had large advantages in the size, talent, skill, and experience categories.

All-Star Kevin Love scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Brutish center Nikola Pekovic added 20 points and 12 rebounds. And Kevin Martin scored 20 of his own.

“Obviously they’re a good basketball team,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s a broken record, but it’s true. They’ve got good players and those good players played really well.”

However, Stevens also pointed toward fatigue as a factor for his team, which was playing on the tail end of a back-to-back after being taken behind the woodshed by Portland Friday.

“In the third quarter, I thought we looked like we ran out of steam and that’s not a good enough excuse because they played a back-to-back, too,” Stevens said.

The third quarter was when the Timberwolves decided to swat the pesky fly that had been a mild annoyance for at least some of the night, including when the Celtics came back from a 17-point second-quarter deficit to trail by just 5 at halftime.

But in that third, well, Minnesota used a 16-2 run over a four-minute stretch that helped it take an 89-70 lead entering the fourth quarter.

They played that final quarter for the sake of tradition, but they could’ve passed and given the locals an early start on their postgame festivities.

Sure, it can be hard for an undersized team like the Celtics to face a team with more than its fair share of tall, talented timbers in Love and Pekovic.

“Yeah, and not only that, with a team as good as them, you can’t trade buckets with them,” said Avery Bradley, who scored a game-high 27 points, 1 short of his career-high.

“There was a moment when we were doing that and we weren’t getting stops and they just kept building their lead and we weren’t able to make shots and they continued to make shots.”

Typically, that is not a formula for success.

The Timberwolves had a 27-18 edge in second-chance points and crushed their guests in the paint, outscoring them, 52-28, in that area.

The Celtics were without Courtney Lee, whose right wrist was sore after landing on it in his team’s 13-point loss to Portland Friday.

Fellow reserve guard Keith Bogans (illness) was also not available.

And Jared Sullinger, who scored a career-high 26 against Portland, was almost not there either, with just 3 points on 1 of 6 shooting in 14 lifeless minutes.

Stevens said he believed that Sullinger, who himself has said that he’s in less-than-great shape, just ran out of gas.

Sullinger felt that was a fair assessment. “At the same time, I’ve just go to play better,” he said.

A huge factor in the Celtics’ loss was that they had no one to match up with the 6-foot-11-inch, 285-pound Pekovic. Stevens started 6-11, 260-pound rookie center Vitor Faverani to try to counter Pekovic, but it didn’t make too much of an impact.

“Every time we made a run, Pekovic stopped it. Every single time,” Stevens said.

“I thought we tried to put bodies on him . . . You only have so many bodies to throw at him. Those guys are probably more typical fours and he is a pure five. He is a big, strong guy and I thought Vitor did OK, but I didn’t think we had enough in guarding him.”

Stevens also said that Love is “probably an MVP candidate.”

Bradley said that the Celtics need to do a better job of getting the ball to Green, whom Bradley called the Celtics’ “best player.”

“We have to get him going,” Bradley said.

Sullinger said the Celtics need to find their comfort zone, the one they were in during their four-game winning streak, when they were sharing the ball more.

“I think we’re just overthinking,” Sullinger said. “We’re still trying to find that comfort zone. It’s a tough loss, it’s a really tough loss, because it’s a 5-point game at halftime. It’s like they flipped the switch on us. We’ve got some work to do.”

Or, as Sullinger has said after each of the Celtics’ losses thus far, including their latest Saturday:

“Back to the drawing board.”

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.

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