Boston Celtics (33-24) at Minnesota Timberwolves (17-39)
Monday, February 22, 2016
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #58, Road Game #31
TV: CSN-NE, FS North, NBA-LP 757(DTV)/757(Xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WCCO-AM 830
Referees: Monty McCutchen, David Guthrie, Scott Twardoski
The Celtics close out their 3-game Western road trip with a stop in Minnesota to visit Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves. The Celtics are looking to sweep the Timberwolves after beating them 113-99 in Boston before Christmas. The Celtics have lost their last 3 in Minnesota but have won the last 10 against the Wolves in Boston.
The Celtics are 16-14 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games, while the Timberwolves are 9-20 at home and 3-7 in their last 10. The Celtics are playing in yet another back-to-back set. At one time this would have meant an expected loss, but this team has made it a point to win back-to-back games. They are 10-3 in the second of back to back games and 3-0 when the games are road/road.
The Celtics are still 3rd in the East and are now 1 game ahead of Miami, who are playing Indiana at home on Monday. They are also 2 games ahead of Indiana (5th) and Atlanta (6th) and 4.5 games behind Toronto, who are in the 2nd spot. Atlanta is hosting the Warriors. Minnesota is 13th in the West and at this point are playing for ping pong balls.
Kelly Olynyk remains out with a sprained shoulder. Avery Bradley is still dealing with a sore and swollen knee, but he played well against the Nuggets and is probable for this game unless he aggravated it in Sunday's game. Marcus Smart is playing through a thumb injury and is also considered probable for this game.
Kevin Garnett has missed the last 11 games for Minnesota and is doubtful for this game. He also missed the first game between these two teams. Nemanja Bjelica (foot) has missed the last 2 games and is doubtful for this game. Nikola Pekovic (foot) has missed the last 7 games and is also listed as doubtful against the Celtics. Kevin Martin returned on Friday after missing 9 games and is probable for this game.
PGSG SF PF C
Isaiah Thomas ...Avery Bradley...Jae Crowder...Amir Johnson...Jared Sullinger
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) out
Avery Bradley (knee) probable
Marcus Smart (thumb) probable
PGSGSF PF C
Ricky Rubio...Zach LaVine...Andrew Wiggins... Gorgui Dieng... Karl-Anthony Towns
Nemanja Bjelica (foot) doubtful
Kevin Garnett (knee) doubtful
Nikola Pekovic (foot) doubtful
Jae Crowder vs Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins is playing very well and averaging 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Jae needs to stay with Wiggins and keep him from having a big night. He scored 26 points against the Celtics in their first game this season.
Jared Sullinger vs Karl Anthony Towns
Towns has been taken under KG's wing and could be this season's Rookie of the Year. He is averaging 17.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Sully will have his hands full trying to slow down the Wolves 7' center, who was versatile enough to beat out Isaiah Thomas in the Skills Challenge.
Avery Bradley vs Zach LaVine
LaVine is fresh off his latest win in the slam dunk contest. Avery needs to keep him from getting into the paint because he is very good at finishing when he does. He is averaging 13.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists. LaVine's athleticism will be a challenge for Avery on defense, especially since Avery isn't 100% with the sore knee.
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 identity this season has been their tough and gritty defense, but they have let it slip over the 5 games prior to their win in Denver. They need to focus on defense once again. Defense wins games!!
Rebound - The Celtics must get rebounds to prevent second-chance points and fast breaks for the Wolves. Rebounding takes effort and desire, and the Celtics have got to show both and crash the boards as a team. When they put out the effort on the boards, it also translates to the other parts of their game.
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. They have to run and they have to move the ball. When they slow it down, more times than not, they struggle.
Play As a Team - The Celtics have been successful when they move the ball and play unselfishly, making the extra pass to get the best shot. When they have fewer than 20 assists, they usually end up with a loss. They need play as a team and move the ball and find the open man. They also have to play as a team on defense and play swarming team defense.
Back-to-Back Factor - The Celtics are playing in back-to-back games, and recently that means that they will play hard and have a good chance of getting a win. However, it also may mean that they could be fatigued down the stretch.
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-factor. Will they let them play, or will they call every ticky tack foul? It's usually to the Celtics' benefit if they let both teams play. Will they call it fair, or will they favor one team over the other? One never knows what any given crew will do. The Celtics need to play through any bad calls as they did against the Nuggets.
Monty McCutchen has officiated 1,310 regular season, 124 playoff, and 12 Finals games. He worked the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas and was a member of the crews that officiated the 1996 and 1997 Mexico Challenges, as well as the 1998 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, McCutchen spent four seasons in the CBA, where he worked the All-Star game his second year and the playoffs all four years. He also officiated the CBA Finals the last three years he was with the league. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed a loss to the Celtics on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. In game 2 of the WCF, McCutchen flipped out on someone and yelled "I'm running this game not you!" as Serge Ibaka went to the line for free throws.
Most of his games with the Celtics have been well officiated but there have been a few head-scratching calls as well. He was the lead ref in one of the worst officiated games I've watched in a long time. In the LA Lakers vs Golden State Warriors a couple years back, the Lakers shot 50 free throws to 16 for the Warriors in a 2-point LA win. It was a key game for the Lakers playoff hopes, and the referees literally gave them the game.
One play in particular stands out to me. In the final minutes with the game tied, Stephen Curry was called for an offensive foul on Dwight Howard, when it was clearly a foul on Howard. The worst part is that they put Steve Blake, a very good free throw shooter, on the line instead of Dwight, even though Blake wasn't involved in the play. It truly was a travesty, and the announcers at the time were completely disgusted with it. It just proves that when they have an agenda, they will go to extreme lengths to accomplish it.
Maybe he felt like he owed the Warriors one, because he called the Celtics game against the Warriors this season and it was definitely called in favor of the Warriors. They gave the Warriors break after break and had Tommy sputtering and yelling the entire game. Evan Turner said after the game that the officiating was a big reason the Celtics lost. Even Warriors fans were talking about all the calls going their way. When Draymond Green committed his 6th foul, they gave it to Stephen Curry, who wasn't even involved in the play. Green was able to play the 4th quarter and both OTs with 5 fouls. Avery Bradley, who was having considerable success guarding Curry, fouled out on a couple of questionable calls. The Warriors shot 39 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics.
So, I guess the bottom line is that McCutchen can be very good, but he also can be very bad. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. The Timberwolves are 0-2 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with him. McCutchen calls an average of 40.7 fouls per game with 50.4% called on the road team. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 29-12.
David Guthrie enters his eleventh season after officiating 582 regular season games and 18 playoff games. Prior to joining the NBA, Guthrie was an official in the CBA, NBA D-League and the New York City Pro Am. He participated in the D-League playoffs in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the D-League championship games in 2004 and 2005. He officiated at the collegiate level in the ACC, SEC, Colonial, Southern, OVC, ASUN, Big South and SWAC conferences and participated in the 2003 and 2004 NCAA tournaments.
In the past, Guthrie has been a decent referee, usually letting the teams play rather than over-officiating. In the game against the Timberwolves, Guthrie officiated the game with crew chief Tony Brothers. In that game calls went the Celtics way at first. After 2 technical fouls against Minnesota's bench, things reversed and calls went mostly the Wolves way. The Timberwolves fans said it best:
When fans admit they are getting help from the refs, you know that the officiating is bad. Minnesota shot 32 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics. He calls an average of 41.1 fouls per game with 51.0% called on the road team. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Guthrie. The Wolves are 0-5 this season and 2-8 in their last 10. Another homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 29-12.
"The refs were the MVP tonight for us."
"It's weird being on the other side of poor officiating."
"Free throws the only thing keeping us afloat in this one."
"We're getting all the calls we didn't get other nights."
Scott Twardowski enters his 5th year as an NBA Referee, having officiated 219 regular season games. Twardowski’s experience includes six seasons and 206 games officiated in the D-League. He also has four seasons of NBA preseason game experience and worked in NBA summer camps for eight years. He also has seven seasons of WNBA experience, working both the All-Star game and Finals. In addition to his professional experience, Twardoski officiated collegiate games for 12 years in the Pac 10, Big 12, Big Sky and West Coast Conferences and has 10 years of high school officiating experience. Twardoski worked as a teacher for five years in the 16th School District, Covington, AZ.
Twardoski has called some games that seem to favor the Celtics and some that seem to favor the opponents. None stand out as being obviously one way or the other in the extreme. There's not much controversy in his career so far. In the game vs the Clippers this season, Twardoski called a foul on Jae Crowder when he was obviously hooked by DeAndre Jordan. At the time, LA was up 2 with less than 1 minute to go. Tommy erupted after the call with "I've never seen this guy before and I hope I never see him again." There were bad calls going both ways the entire game.