Friday, February 8
8:00 PM ET
TV: ESPN, CSN
After the blockbuster deal this past June that departed Kevin Garnett from his 12-year run with Minnesota, Timberwolves fans abruptly marked his return on their calendars. Unfortunately, the 11-time NBA All-Star will be on the pine for his Minnesota reunion, as he is nursing an abdominal injury he ironically attained in January 25th’s meeting with the Timberwolves. Since then, the Celtics have gone 3-2 in his absence, but have gotten spectacular play out of guards Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen night in and night out.
This Minnesota Timberwolves team has shown rapid signs of improvement as of late, however, so the Celtics should not expect anything resembling a cake-walk. The C’s learned that the hard way, as the Wolves were one corrected mistake away from perhaps stealing the game in Boston. Garnett’s last-second diving steal sealed the deal for Boston, however, and the Wolves left the TD BankNorth Garden with another loss added to their record. They did leave with some dignity, however. The pups look as though they are coming of age, as they’ve fought hard on a nightly basis and have even won five of their last eight games. In that stint, "Big Al" Jefferson held averages of 27.4 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. After coming out with a somewhat disappointing 15-point, five-rebound performance in Boston two weeks ago, expect the big fella’ to redeem himself against his old coach and teammates.
Kevin Garnett may be spending his night in the locker room, but this is going to be one hell of a game. Get your popcorn ready, folks.
C Kendrick Perkins / Al Jefferson
PF Brian Scalabrine / Ryan Gomes
SF Paul Pierce / Rashad McCants
SG Ray Allen / Marko Jaric
PG Rajon Rondo / Sebastian Telfair
Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Sebastian Telfair
You can argue that the sexier pick would be Perk vs. his good friend Big Al, but let’s look at it from a different angle. Rondo had a lot of trouble with Telfair back on January 25, where the former Celtic put up 18 points and six assists, especially in pick n’ roll situations. Since then, however, Rondo has played much better on the defensive end and looks to have learned how to deal with screens. It’d be nice to see him call it even, if you will, with "Bassy." Then if he does, we can have a big Rajon Rondo night at the Gah-en on Sunday.
Celtics X-Factor: Intensity
This is going to be a very emotional game. As Doc eluded to on Wednesday, the Wolves are going to come out with a lot of fire and will play their hearts out for a win against their old team. Without Kevin Garnett in the lineup, matching their intensity level is a must. Garnett’s intensity level is indescribably irreplaceable, but he’s not going to be out there to play the role of the emotional leader tonight. Everybody in a green uniform needs to make sure they step on the Target Center floor ready to play, or they will have a lot of problems.
BOS – Kevin Garnett (strained abdomen – out)
BOS – Scot Pollard (score left ankle – day-to-day)
MIN – Theo Ratliff (recovering from right knee surgery - out)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Match Minnesota’s Intensity Level
- Own the Boards
- Bench Play (keep it up)
- Defense (especially on the ball-side)
- Shot Selection