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Hayward explodes for 35 as Celtics beat Wolves

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Gordon Hayward
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward dunks the ball during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden. -- GREG M. COOPER-USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES — Boston’s Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 35 points, and Terry Rozier got the start for an injured Kyrie Irving and scored 16 points on Wednesday to lead the Celtics to a 115-102 home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Irving sustained a right eye injury in a loss to San Antonio on New Year’s Eve, and his status remains day-to-day. Minnesota also was short-handed without Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, and Robert Covington dressing, all due to ankle injuries.

Hayward connected on 14 of 18 shots from the floor and went 4 of 7 from 3-point range, including a 27-footer from the top of the key with 4:37 left that put the Celtics up 106-92. He had gone scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting Monday in Boston’s loss at San Antonio.

Minnesota had cut a 22-point, third-quarter deficit to six entering the fourth.

In the teams’ first meeting, Hayward scored 30 points in a Celtics’ 118-109 win on Dec. 1 at Minneapolis.

Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with a season-high 31 points. Karl-Anthony Towns finished 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Minnesota came alive in the third quarter after the Celtics had grabbed a 60-42 halftime lead. The Timberwolves cut the deficit to 77-67 on a Towns’ 26-foot 3-pointer.

Boston’s Marcus Smart sprained his shoulder in a collision with Towns early in the third with the Celtics up 18. When he returned, the Celtics were up only 85-74.

Towns scored 20 third-quarter points, and the Timberwolves trailed just 87-81 heading into the fourth quarter.

Celtics forward Marcus Morris also injured his shoulder on a driving layup in the fourth. Morris left the game and did not return.

Boston shot 61.5% from the field in the first half and went 8 of 17 from 3-point range. Minnesota was a dreadful 41 percent from the field and only 3 of 10 from beyond the arc in the first 24 minutes.

EMBIID POURS IN 42 AS 76ERS SINK SUNS
Joel Embiid scored 42 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the visiting Philadelphia 76ers past the Phoenix Suns 132-127 on Wednesday.

Ben Simmons scored a season-high 29 points and JJ Redick contributed 27 for the Sixers, who won their second straight on consecutive nights after dispatching the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

Embiid, who was questionable due to left knee soreness, registered his league-best 33rd double-double and his league-leading 26th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Embiid also became the first player to post at least 30 points and 14 rebounds in any half since Carlos Boozer on March 26, 2007, doing so before halftime. In addition, Embiid reached the 40-point mark for the fifth time in his career.

The Sixers were short-handed without forwards Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler, each out due to an upper-respiratory infection.

Devin Booker led the struggling Suns with 37 points while DeAndre Ayton added 18 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Jackson had 16 points.

The Suns, who own the Western Conference’s worst record, lost their fourth consecutive game.

Simmons scored 13 points in the first quarter as the Sixers surged to a 44-32 lead. Booker single-handedly kept the Suns within striking distance by pouring in 17 points.

Embiid was utterly dominant in the second quarter with 18 points. The Sixers pulled ahead 72-49 by the break as the Suns shot just 3 of 23 in the second period.

The Sixers kept the pressure on and went ahead 92-63 on a sweeping right-handed hook shot by Simmons with 5:59 left in the third.

Phoenix made a late push but still trailed 104-87 after three.

The Suns crept within 113-104 with 5:44 remaining when Jackson hit a jump shot, capping a 9-0 run. Embiid answered on the next possession with a clutch three-point play for a 116-104 advantage, giving him 40 points on the night.

The Suns sliced the deficit to six late in the fourth, but Furkan Korkmaz hit a 3-pointer and Embiid added a layup to help seal the tight win.

HEAT BLAST CAVALIERS IN WAITERS’ LONG-AWAITED RETURN
Josh Richardson scored a game-high 24 points and Dion Waiters played his first game in more than a year as the Miami Heat won their fourth straight road game, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-92 on Wednesday night.

On a night of comebacks, Waiters, a shooting guard who had not played since Dec. 22, 2017, made perhaps the biggest splash. He made the first shot he attempted — a 3-pointer in the second quarter — and finished with seven points in 11 minutes.

Another comeback was made by Cavs starting forward Tristan Thompson, who had not played since Dec. 10 due to a foot injury. He started hot by scoring eight points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 14 points in 23 minutes.

Patrick McCaw, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who won two NBA titles while starting 30 games for the Golden State Warriors over the past two years, made his Cavaliers debut by scoring two points in 18 minutes off the bench. McCaw had declined a Warriors contract and signed with Cleveland on Dec. 28.

Finally, forward James Johnson returned to the Heat starting lineup after missing Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He scored 11 points against Cleveland.

Besides the comebacks, there were no mysteries in Wednesday’s game. Miami outrebounded Cleveland 47-22. The Heat also shot 51.2% from the floor, including 16-for-31 on 3-pointers (51.6%). — Reuters