Preview by IndeedProceed
Since that fateful day on July 31st, 2007 the Boston Celtics have faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves four times and have won four times. That does not mean it has always been easy. In 2007-2008 the Celtics won the two games against the Wolves by a combined score of three points. In 2008-2009 the scores were a little less stressful but the latest battle last season had Boston only winning by eight.
Circumstances are decidedly different for both teams since they last met during the regular season. Minnesota's (By way of Boston. We had him first) Al Jefferson way playing at an All-Star level, posting 34 points and 11 rebounds. Boston was riding high, tied for the best record in the league. Since that game both teams have underwent massive changes.
Seven games later Boston would lose Kevin Garnett to what would ultimately be a season ending injury. Five games later Minnesota would lose Al Jefferson for the season. Both injuries would severely derail their respective teams seasons.
Now, it is two very different teams that face off. The Celtics have a revamped bench and a healthy Garnett. Of the Timberwolves starting 5 last Winter, only former Celtics Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson remain. The Celtics look to improve on their already impressive record while the Timberwolves still look to get their first win since the franchise defining trade of Kevin Garnett.
*Oleksiy Percherov and Damien Wilkins have both started 2 games a piece. Rambis has been playing around with the lineup and neither has set themselves apart. With our bigger lineup Percherov will probably start, but honestly I have no idea.
Injuries and Stuff:
Min- Kevin Love, out
Al Jefferson vs Kevin Garnett- Both of these guys are obviously less than 100%, but for either team to maximize their potential, both guys need to eventually be healthy, and the sooner the better. While both guys are averaging close to 30 mins a game, neither guy has looked remotely like the player they have been in the past. Also it is pretty obvious their minutes are still being heavily monitored. Both teams are really looking for that 25 point 12 rebound performance to breath a sigh of relief for either player, and as yet it has not happened.
Other Noteable Matchups:
Johnny Flynn and Ramon Sessions vs Rajon Rondo-Johnny Flynn right now is the Wolves' leading scorer, and Rondo has had issues with fast agile scoring PG's in the past (see TJ Ford, Chris Paul, etc). The bigger story in the long term here though is the ever changing depth chart in Minnesota. While Flynn scores and start, Sessions seems to make his teammates better and gets more minutes. Flynn is a showy player that makes things happen but Sessions is a more steady hand and probably the smarter play. It will be interesting to see who Rambis goes to for the majority of the game while the outcome is still in question.
Keys to the game for the good guys:
- The Celtics need to play up to their own potential and not down to the competition. During theBobcats game, I made the observation in the chat that the Celtics often end up in tough drawn out games with the Cats, and one of the other more astute members said "No IP, they just play down to them" That makes a lot of sense. On paper we're a far better team than the T-Wolves, but if we walk onto the floor thinking this game will be anything other than a regular NBA game, the Wolves have a shot to surprise us.
- Don't try to do too hard, and stay focused. I said in the matchups section, Al Jefferson and Kevin Garnett have neither really had a 'statement game' yet. On top of that, KG will be heading home for the third time since his trade, and he will feel real pressure to put on a show for the people, and likewise Al Jefferson will be looking both to reaffirm his own worth as a player matching KG's caliber (b/c they were traded for each other), and to show the home fans that he's still the 25-10 Al Jefferson from last season.
- Limit the turnovers. God I cannot fathom why we turn over the ball so much. It is the number one thing that gets me screaming at the TV and the one thing we're constantly raked over the coals for in the national media. Against a young, hungry team like the Wolves this is of even larger concern. The Wolves' number one priority coming into this season was to 'run', with Rambis stating from day one that this team was going to get up and down the court fast, and often. Points off turnovers has been a bane in the past, and if you give a young team like the Wolves an emotional boost with a couple showy dunks off of turnovers, they might actually start thinking they can win the game. (as if.)