Garnett can only watch as Powe's last-second layup lifts Celtics

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Garnett's old town gave him an emotional welcome on his return to Minnesota. Then KG's new team delivered a thrilling victory for its injured superstar.

Leon Powe made a layup as time expired to lift Garnett's Boston Celtics to an 88-86 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night.

It was a wild ending to a memorable night -- even though the guy everyone came to see was unable to play.

Elias Says

Friday's win makes the Celtics 15-0 against teams from the Western Conference. Since 1970-71, only one other team won its first 15 (or more) games against teams from the other conference: the Lakers in 1971-72 won their first 19 games against Eastern Conference teams.

• Read more Elias Says

The Timberwolves had the ball with the score tied 86-86 with 28 seconds left. Marko Jaric missed a 3-pointer and teammate Craig Smith rebounded the ball and tried to kick it back out.

But Ray Allen stepped in front and stole the pass and raced the other way with the clock ticking down. A frantic scramble under the basket ended with Powe putting back a miss just before the buzzer sounded.

"I didn't think he was going to miss," Powe said of Allen's layup attempt. "I knew I got it off in time, I just didn't know if there was a foul or anything."

The play was reviewed and confirmed that Powe, who had 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting and eight rebounds, just beat the horn.

Smith said he made the play out of instinct and thought he saw a teammate flash in front of him at the last second.

"It hurts a lot, especially when you know it was in your hands on the last play," Smith said.

Paul Pierce had 18 points and six assists and Allen scored 17 for the Celtics, who were playing their sixth straight game without Garnett, out with an abdominal strain.

"Any time we win without Kevin on the road, it's a big win for us," coach Doc Rivers said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. You knew they were going to be sky high. They get a sellout, their only national TV game."

Al Jefferson scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and Smith had 16 points, seven rebounds and that one costly turnover for the Wolves.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the young Timberwolves, who watched their home crowd give Garnett a rousing ovation before the game and desperately wanted to give them something else to cheer about.

"It's tough, this is a tough one," said coach Randy Wittman, whose team lost by one point in Boston last month. "We had 'em beat twice and we're 0-2. That's the bottom line."

Garnett was first injured against the Wolves in Boston two weeks ago, but this one had to be the toughest one yet for the intense star to miss.

For 12 years, Garnett served as the face of the franchise, lighting up the Twin Cities with his bright smile and breathtaking play. When the Timberwolves decided to rebuild this summer, they shipped the beloved KG to Boston for Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two first-round picks.

It's been a trying year without No. 21 around, and the Target Center was a rare sellout on Friday night in anticipation of Garnett's return.

Thousands were disappointed when Garnett was inactive, but the Wolves introduced him before the game to give the fans one more chance to cheer him.

In a stirring scene, Garnett waved sheepishly and smiled wide while thousands of fans wearing his Wolves No. 21 and Celtics No. 5 let him know just how much he was missed.

"That was real touching," Powe said. "To be somewhere for so long, to come back and visit, it has got to be good for him, too. I was happy for him."

Garnett did not speak to reporters.

After about 2 minutes on the floor, he returned to the locker room to watch the game, and then the crowd got behind their young and improving team.

It was a long first couple of months for these new Timberwolves, but lately they have been playing with more cohesion and consistency on both ends of the court and entered the night having won five of their last eight.

Both teams shot poorly for most of the night, but the Celtics opened the fourth with a 10-2 run to take a 72-68 lead.

The Wolves hung in there until Jefferson finally got going.

Held to eight points in the first three quarters, he scored eight in a two-minute span, including a jump hook that tied the game at 84 with 2:05 to go.

Smith then took a pretty feed from Telfair to give the Wolves the lead, but Rajon Rondo came right back with a 19-foot jumper to tie the game, setting up the hectic finish.

Game notes
Celtics C Kendrick Perkins left the game in the third with a strained left shoulder. ... It was the third sellout of the season at Target Center. ... Wittman and Rivers are close friends and jawed playfully at each other all game. At one point, Rivers was pleading with referee Ron Garretson and Wittman asked, "Isn't there a coach's box?" Rivers laughed and said, "They moved mine down."