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Celtics begin the post-Rondo era with a visit from the Timberwolves

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Two teams reeling from trades clash at the Garden.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (5-19) at Boston Celtics (9-14)
Friday, December 19, 2014
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #24, Home Game #15
TV: CSNNE, FSNorth, NBA-LP 754 (DTV), 754 (xfinity)
TD Garden

Referees: John Goble, Brian Forte, Marat Kogut

The Celtics begin the post- Rondo era with a visit from the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves. Celtics game notes have Evan Turner starting at point guard for this game. Marcus Smart is more than likely the point guard of the future, and once he is healthy enough, he will probably take the starting spot vacated by Rondo's departure but for this game, he is listed as questionable.

To make things even more interesting, the Timberwolves have also jumped on the trade wagon. They have agreed to trade Cory Brewer and Ronny Turiaf to Houston for Troy Daniels. It sure is hard to do a game thread when teams are trading pieces up until the tip off. I'm going to guess that Shabazz Muhammad will replace Corey Brewer in the starting lineup but that's just a guess.

This will be the only visit to the Garden by the Wolves this season. They will meet again in Minnesota on January 28. The Wolves have been struggling, winning just 1 of their last 10 games. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics are 6-8 at home while the Wolves are just 2-9 on the road.

Yesterday morning, I would have predicted a win for the Celtics as they Wolves have been struggling and the Celtics have won two in a row, showing improved defense in both games. But, even though this should be a win for the Celtics, it may be a tough game as they struggle to overcome the loss of their Captain.

Probable Starters
Evan Turner...Avery Bradley...Jeff Green...Jared Sullinger...Tyler Zeller

Celtics Reserves
Evan Turner
Brandon Bass
Tyler Zeller
Gerald Wallace
Jae Crowder
Brandan Wright
Jameer Nelson

Marcus Thornton (calf) out
Marcus Smart (Achilles) -questionable
James Young (shoulder) out

Probable Starters
Zach Lavine...Shabazz Muhammad...Andrew Wiggins... Thaddeus Young...Gorgui Dieng

Timberwolves Reserves
Anthony Bennett
Mo Williams
Jeff Adrien
Robbie Hummel
Glenn Robinson
Chase Budinger
Troy Daniels

Kevin Martin (wrist) out
Nikola Pekovic (ankle) out
Ricky Rubio (ankle) out

Key Matchups
Jeff Green vs Andrew Wiggins
Assuming that Jeff Green is still a Celtic by game time, he will be matched up with the number one pick in this year's draft. Wiggins is averaging 12.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.04 steals. He is shooting just 39.6% from the field. This would be a good time for Jeff to be aggressive and have a big game.

Jared Sullinger vs Thaddeus Young
Sully played well against the Magic after suffering through an offensive slump in previous games. Young leads the Wolves in scoring with 14.5 points along with 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. It would be good to see Sully continue to play well in this game and come up with a big game.

Keys to the Game

Defense - The Celtics must defend. The offense feeds off of the defense and if the Celtics can't get stops they struggle on the other end as well. Their defense has improved in the past two games and hopefully it continues to improve in this game. Defense wins games.

Rebound - The Celtics must get rebounds to prevent second chance points and fast breaks. Rebounding takes effort and desire and the Celtics have got to show both and crash the boards as a team. Rondo was one of the teams better rebounders and other players have to step up to fill in that void.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and rebounds and in taking the ball to the basket. They also have to be aggressive on defense. When they are aggressive in going to the hoop good things happen. The Celtics have to play like they are the team that wants it more.

Set the Pace-
The Celtics must run from the beginning of the game until the final buzzer. Running will allow them to get easy baskets as they get down the court before the defenses set up. Without Rondo to find the open man, this will be even more important.

Trade Effects
The trade will be a big x-factor. Will the new players be ready to play? And, even if they are able to play, how much can they help without knowing any of the plays? Will trading Rondo affect the chemistry on the team? When Perk was traded, the team was on top of the standings and proceeded to fall apart after the trade. Will the Celtics fall apart and go into the tank now? Or, will they rally around the remaining players and play harder and play well? So many questions that need answers. The same questions could be asked of the Timberwolves, who will find out about the trade of their starting shooting guard just before game time. The team that handles the trade better will pull out the win.