MINNEAPOLIS — The Old Wolf showed the Young Pup who still runs things in Minnesota.
Kevin Garnett had 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in his return to Target Center and the Boston Celtics outmuscled Kevin Love and the Timberwolves in a 100-79 victory Friday night.
Paul Pierce had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 17 assists for the Celtics, who have won four in a row and six of their last seven.
Love had 22 points and 11 rebounds, but succumbed to Garnett’s physical defense in a battle between the face of the Timberwolves past and present.
Luke Ridnour had 15 points and eight assists, but the Wolves turned the ball over 21 times to see their playoff hopes take a hit. They entered 2½ games out of the eighth spot in the West.
Garnett improved to 6-0 against the Wolves, including 4-0 at Target Center since he was traded in 2007.
He has been playing with a little extra spring in his step since Doc Rivers moved him to center at the All-Star break, and so have the Celtics, who are 14-5 since the break.
It was the third straight game Garnett has topped 20 points, his longest streak of the season.
He bodied up Love — his heir apparent in Minnesota — on the defensive end and knocked down open jumper after open jumper on the other to set the tone.
The old man even threw down an alley-oop in transition in the third quarter and put the game on ice with his patented turnaround jumper over Love that made it 92-78 with four minutes to play.
Without Montenegrin heavy Nikola Pekovic (ankle) by his side in the paint, Love had a hard time going toe-to-toe with the physical Celtics.
Garnett spent 12 seasons in Minnesota, nearly single-handedly turning the woebegone franchise into a perennial playoff team that made a run to the Western Conference finals in 2004.
The deeply loyal Garnett didn’t want to leave when the Timberwolves traded him. But when the deal was made, things turned sour.
Timberwolves executives were unhappy with Garnett’s demeanor behind the scenes and Garnett seethed over a perceived lack of loyalty from the organization, particularly when owner Glen Taylor alleged that KG “tanked it” at the end of the 2006-07 season by sitting on the bench with injuries.
Earlier this week, he was quoted as saying he loves Minnesota and the fans who cheered for him so passionately, but had “nothing positive to say” about the organization.
That appeared to rankle some Wolves fans, who are finally starting to see some signs of positivity for the first time since Garnett left.
During the second quarter, Garnett was taking the ball out of bounds and a fan hollered: “Hey Kevin, please come back next year!”
Garnett simply muttered: “No way.”
The Wolves have a new face of the franchise in Love, who has put together a monster March — averaging 31.3 points, 14.1 rebounds and shooting 46 percent from 3 coming into the game — to keep the short-handed Wolves hanging around the playoff conversation.
But he couldn’t live up to Garnett’s legacy Friday night.
“Two totally different players. The only thing that’s really the same about us two is our first names,” Love said. “It’s a really unfair comparison. He’s a once-in-a-generation, once-in-a-lifetime type player.
“If I could do some of the things that he did for this franchise, it would be nice. More than anything, I just want to win and he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. Hopefully more than anything I can try to emulate that.”
Notes: Rondo has at least 10 assists in 12 straight games, the longest active streak in the league. … Avery Bradley scored 17 points for Boston. … The Wolves were also missing JJ Barea (thigh) and Michael Beasley (toe). Barea said he will not make the upcoming road trip to Portland and Sacramento. … Vanilla Ice performed at halftime.