The Minnesota Timberwolves make their only visit to the TD Garden this season. The Celtics will travel to Minnesota on March 8 for the second and final regular season game between them. The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season, but both of these teams have changed almost entirely in this off season. The Wolves have lost their last 11 games at TD Garden.
The Wolves are 4th in the West while the Celtics remain 1st in the East, 2.5 games ahead of the Raptors and 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland. Both teams are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 17-5 at home while the Wolves are 11-9 on the road. The Celtics are 11-2 against the West and the Wolves are 4-9 against the East. The Celtics are looking for their 5th straight win while the Wolves are looking to get back in the win column after losing on Wednesday.
The Celtics appear to be almost back to full strength other than Gordon Hayward, who is out for the season with an ankle injury. Marcus Morris will once again sit out to rest his knee as he continues his rehab. Jeff Teague has missed the last 4 games with a sprained MCL and is listed as out indefinitely. Tyus Jones received stitches in his lip after Wednesday’s game vs the Nets and is considered a game time decision for this one.
After playing in two straight games and starting against the Cavaliers, Marcus Morris is listed as out for this game as he continues to rehab his balky knee. I’m not sure if he will play in Saturday’s game and so they are picking one of the back to back games or if he will miss both. I’m guessing that Aron Baynes will return to the starting lineup, although with Brad Stevens, you never know. I’ve listed Minnesota’s starting lineup from their game notes but that could change if Tyus Jones can’t play.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Jeff Teague (MCL) out
Tyus Jones (lips) game time decision
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Jimmy Butler
Butler is playing very well since being traded from Chicago to Minnesota in the offseason. He is averaging 21.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. He always seems to play hard against the Celtics and usually has a big game. Butler is also a good defender and so Jaylen will need to work for his points in this game.
Aron Baynes vs Karl Anthony Towns
With Morris expected to miss this games I’m guessing that Baynes will be back in the starting lineup. Towns is very versatile and is playing very well. He is averaging 20.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Baynes will have his hands full trying to slow down the Wolves 7’ center who is versatile enough to have beaten Isaiah Thomas in the Skills Challenge.
Jayson Tatum vs Andrew Wiggins
The Celtics rookie will be tasked with guarding the Wolves 4th year star. Wiggins is averaging 17.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. This should be a good matchup of talented young players.
Keys to the Game:
Defense Defense Defense!! - Defense is the key to winning every game, but particularly this one. The Timberwolves average 108.4 points per game, which is 7th in the league, while the Celtics average 103.4 points per game (20th). The Celtics had slipped somewhat on defense but seemed to be getting back to it against Cleveland. It seems odd for a Thibodeau coached team to be 23rd with a defensive rating of 107.5. The Celtics remain first with a defensive rating of 100.4. The Celtics must continue to make defense a priority and play tough individual and team defense if they want to win this one.
Take Care of the Ball - The Wolves are 2nd in the league with 18.9 points off turnovers. The Celtics need to take care of the ball and focus on making good passes because if they get sloppy, the Wolves will certainly make them pay.
Rebound - The Celtics had been rebounding very well this season but like the defense, they slacked off in that area. But also like defense, they seemed to get back to it, outrebounding the Cavs 52-48. They are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game to 41.3 rebounds per game for the Wolves. The Wolves are 5th in Points in the Paint with 47.7 and 6th in Second Chance Points with 14.1. The Celtics need to put in extra effort to crash the boards and beat the Wolves to the rebounds and limit their second chance points.
Be Aggressive - One of the strengths of the Celtics has been their aggressiveness on the court. They need to be aggressive in going after rebounds, on defense, in attacking the basket and in going after loose balls. The more aggressive team will also usually get more calls from the officials. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team and be the team that plays harder.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics at times will start off slow and then have to dig themselves out of a an early hole or else, they start strong and get a big lead and then let the opponent back into the game and have to fight right up until the end. The Celtics have had 16 games where they fell behind by 11 or more. They are 8-8 in those games. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Home Sweet Home - The Celtics are playing at home for the fourth straight game. They have played well at home with a 17-5 record at the TD Garden. The Celtics have won 11 straight against the Timberwolves at the TD Garden. 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 with the exception of Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have had to scramble to fill in for several players who have been out with various injuries and finally all should be available in this game. That gives the Celtics versatility and depth, both of which should help them get a win.
Let Down Game - The Celtics are coming off a big emotional win over the Cavaliers and sometimes teams tend to let down their guard and not play as hard following an emotional game like that one. There aren’t former players to play against and the Wolves aren’t a rival like the Cavs are but the Celtics need to come out focused and play hard as every game counts and not just the big ones against former players or big rivals.