By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Trailing by 15 points to late in the third quarter on Monday night, things did not look great for the Celtics in Minnesota.

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Through the first 36 minutes, the Timberwolves had their way with nearly everything. Boston had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished the evening with 28 points and 18 rebounds. The Wolves led by 10 points at halftime after pouring in 31 in the second quarter, a lead was increased to 13 by the end of the third quarter.

But then the Celtics got aggressive on defense. The Wolves went cold in the fourth quarter, as they’ve been known to do this season, and the Celtics got hot. Red hot. They quickly erased that large deficit with an inspiring 19-0 run, starting with the final bucket of the third. Led by Al Horford and Terry Rozier, the C’s held Minnesota scoreless for nearly seven minutes of play and walked off the floor with their second straight win, 99-93.

Horford, playing in his second game back after returning from a concussion, did a little bit of everything as Boston slowly chipped away at Minnesota’s lead. He pulled down rebounds, played some stellar defense on Towns down low and put the ball in he hoop at key times. After he missed a three-point bid at the 7:33 mark, he stuck with it and grabbed his own miss for his fourth offensive rebound, slamming it home with authority to make it an 81-78 game. After starting the run with a jumper at the end of the third, the veteran book-ended things with another short jumper to give Boston an 85-81 lead, forcing the Wolves to burn their final timeout of the game with 5:43 left. He finished with a stat line that looks like a delicious Thanksgiving spread: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.

Celtics Al Horford attacks the basket in Boston's comeback win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Celtics Al Horford attacks the basket in Boston’s comeback win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

But Horford was not alone, as Rozier also keyed to Boston’s run with eight of his 12 points in the final frame. The second-year guard hit a pair of key threes during the stretch, including one that tied things up at 81 with 6:52 to go when Rozier pulled down a Zach LaVine missed three, raced down the floor and drained the triple of his own for a six-point swing. Just a few plays later, Rozier came up with a steal on the defensive end and finished with a breakaway dunk to give Boston an 83-81 lead, which they did not relinquish the rest of the way.

“Once you get comfortable playing hard, a lot of things just go your way,” Rozier told reporters after the game. “You just relax more and you feel like you can do a lot of things.”

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Rozier said that having head coach Brad Stevens show such confidence in him in the fourth quarter was a big confidence boost. The guard’s veteran teammates applauded his defensive peskiness as a big spark to their run.

“I want to be that annoying guy that’s picking up the ball and just always is in the point guard’s ear, that’s always in his face. Nobody wants to play against a guy like that,” Rozier added.

The Celtics held the Wolves to just 12 points in the fourth quarter. and his seven of their first 12 shots to open the frame. They did so without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas, on the floor. Thomas, who finished with a game-high 29 points, had no issue being a cheerleader for the team’s big run, watching players like Rozier, Jonas Jerebko and Marcus Smart make big play after big play.

Horford helped seal the win with a veteran play with 4:50 left, preventing a turnover on a bad feed by Thomas and tapping it out to Smart, who calmly drained a 3-pointer. Astute plays like that, and all the little things he does away from the ball, are why the Celtics 4-1 when Horford has played and 4-5 when he doesn’t. After hitting the game-winner Saturday night in Detroit, it’s safe to say the Celtics would not have been victorious in either of their first two games of this three-game road trip, which will conclude Wednesday night in Brooklyn.

Boston improved to 8-6 on the win, which came just a few nights after they got down big to the Golden State Warriors at home and were never able to chisel away at the deficit. It caused Thomas to call out the team, and his coach, for throwing in the towel early. It’s a situation that was quickly diffused before in the wee hours of Saturday morning before the C’s went on to beat the Pistons on Saturday night.

There was no early quit on Monday night, as the Celtics used a spark from a young player, a savvy vet and some strong defense to dig themselves out of a big hole. The win showed they’re far from perfect, but they’re also far from a dysfunctional team that people feared had showed up after the loss to Golden State.

Horford is back and is every bit the veteran presence the C’s had hoped for when they signed him to a four-year deal over the summer. Rozier, absent for stretches to start the season, showed he can make an impact off the bench.

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Monday’s win was a game the Celtics probably should have lost, but showed that gusto we’ve seen from a team that didn’t quit over the last two years. They remain a work in progress, but that progress was evident on Monday night.