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Celtics look to sweep the season series from the surging Minnesota Timberwolves

The Celtics host the Minnesota Timberwolves who have been playing very well recently. Both teams are looking for their second straight win.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

at
Minnesota Timberwolves (28-38) at Boston Celtics (42-25)
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #68, Home Game #32
TV: CSNNE, FSNorth, NBA-LP 755(DTV)/753(xfinity)
Radio: WZLX 100.7, WCCO-AM
TD Garden
Referees: Ed Malloy, Kane Fitzgerald, Aaron Smith


The Celtics continue their two game home stand with a visit from the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 99-93 in Minnesota on November 21. The Celtics used a 19-0 run to start the 4th quarter to get the come from behind win. The Celtics are fighting for top seeding right now while the Wolves are eyeing the final playoff spot in the West.

The Timberwolves did the Celtics a favor by beating the Wizards at home on Monday to move the Celtics back into 2nd place by half a game. Now, the Celtics have to take their destiny into their own hands and sweep the series from the Wolves to stay in second place. They split the series last season 1-1 with each team winning on their home court.

Both teams are looking for their second straight win. The Celtics are 22-9 at home while the Wolves are 10-20 on the road. In spite of their sub .500 record, the Celtics can't take the Timberwolves for granted as they have been playing very well in recent games. The Wolves are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Celtics are just 5-5 in their last 10.

The Celtics are finally healthy with no players on the injured list at this time. For the Wolves, Zach LaVine is out with a knee injury and Nikola Pekovic is out with an ankle injury. Adreian Payne missed 13 games with thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) and has received a DNP-CD for the past 4 games.

Standings Reset
The Celtics moved back into 2nd place with the Wizards' loss to these same Timberwolves. The Celtics are 2.5 games behind the Cavs after a win over Detroit on Tuesday. The Wizards are .5 games behind the Celtics. The Raptors are 3 games behind Boston. The Hawks are 5 games behind the Celtics.

Games to Watch

3/15 Mavericks at Wizards


Probable Starters
PGSG SF PF C
Isaiah Thomas ...Avery Bradley...Jae Crowder...Al Horford...Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves

Jaylen Brown
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Tyler Zeller
Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart

Injuries
None

Head Coach
Brad Stevens


Probable Starters
PGSGSF PF C
Ricky Rubio...Brandon Rush...Andrew Wiggins... Gorgui Dieng... Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves Reserves

Cole Aldrich
Nemanja Bjelica
Kris Dunn
Jordan Hill
Tyus Jones
Adreian Payne
Shabazz Muhammad
Lance Stephenson

Injuries
Nikola Pekovic (ankle) out
Zach LaVine (knee) out

Coach
Tom Thibodeau

Key Matchups
vs
Jae Crowder vs Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins is playing very well and averaging 23.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Jae needs to stay with Wiggins to keep him from having a big night. He also needs to hit his shots and
make Wiggins work on the defensive end as well.

vs
Amir Johnson vs Karl Anthony Towns
Towns has been very good this season after a year of Kevin Garnett's mentoring. He is averaging 24.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Amir will have his hands full trying to slow down the Wolves 7' center who is versatile enough to beat out Isaiah Thomas in the Skills Challenge. He had 27 points and 18 rebounds in their first meeting and hopefully the Celtics can keep him from having another big game in this one.

Honorable Mention

Al Horford vs Gorgui Deng
Deng had a big game with 20 points and 10 rebounds the last time these teams met. It will be very important for the Celtics to limit the Wolves big front line in this game.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics have been finding their defensive roots in recent games and they need to continue to play tough team defense. The offense feeds off of the defense and if the Celtics can't get stops they struggle on the other end as well. Now that they are healthy, it's time to once again clamp down on defense. 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, especially against the big front line of the Wolves. The Celtics are 20-2 when they match or out-rebound their opponents. 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. Isaiah recently made the comment that if they aren't the hardest working team they aren't very good. They simply have to be the team that works hardest.

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.

Don't Underestimate the Timberwolves - If the Celtics look at the Wolves record and play them like a team 10 games under .500, they will not only have a tough game, but they will likely lose. The Wolves have been playing very well recently and beat the Clippers, Jazz, Warriors, and Wizards in recent games. They are playing some excellent defense and if the Celtics play the record and not the team, they are in for a long game. They have to come into the game playing some good defense of their own and play hard throughout the game because if they don't, the Wolves will get the win.



X-Factors
Home Sweet Home
- The Celtics are playing at home for the second straight game. They have played well at home with a 22-9 record at the TD Garden. As most young teams do, the Wolves struggle somewhat on the road with a 10-20 record. The Celtics have won 9 of their last 10 at home and have won 10 straight against the Timberwolves at home. The Celtics need to get a boost from the home crowd and defend their home court.

The Gang's All Here - The Celtics are finally all healthy. The starters have only played 27 games together so far this season. The Celtics are 20-7 when the starting 5 is healthy and together. They need to build on that and get even better. It is a good time for the Celtics to be healthy as they have 15 games left to get sharper and work together to win games down the stretch going into the playoffs.

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. However the game is called, the Celtics need to play through it and not let the officiating distract them.