The Celtics close out their 7 game home stand with a visit from the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is the first game between them this season. They will meet a second time in Minnesota on May 15, in the next to last game of the season. With a win, the Celtics will be over .500 for the first time since March 16. They have been at .500 but haven’t been able to get above that mark.
The Celtics were 1-0 against the Wolves last season, with the second game cancelled due to Covid. The Celtics have won their last 7 games vs the Timberwolves, going back to 2016. They have won their last 13 games in Boston against Minnesota, going back to 2015. The Wolves currently have the worst record in the league and are likely counting their ping pong balls with every loss.
Minnesota lost 141-137 in Indiana on Wednesday. They trailed by 21 points at the half but fought back to come to within 2 with 3:20 to go in the game and came as close as 2 points in the final 10 seconds. They obviously have some fight in them and so the Celtics shouldn’t take them for granted and expect them to lie down and lose if the Celtics don’t come out with some effort.
The Timberwolves are 15th in the West and last in the NBA. They are 1.5 games behind the Rockets who are 14th. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 5-22 on the road. They lost their last game but beat the Kings in the game before that one.
Tristan Thompson finally returned to the Celtics on Wednesday and made an impact in his first game back. Evan Fournier is listed as out in this game due to health and safety protocols. For the Timberwolves, Malik Beasley is out with a hamstring injury. Jaylen Nowell is doubtful with a leg injury. Josh Okogie is probable after missing the last game for personal reasons.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams
Evan Fournier (covid) out
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: Jaden McDaniels
PF: Jake Layman
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Malik Beasley (hamstring) out
Jaylen Nowell (leg) doubtful
Josh Okogie (personal) probable
Robert Williams vs Karl-Anthony Townes
This will be a real challenge for Timelord as Townes is playing very well and is a tough cover. He is averaging 24.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He is shooting 49.3% from the field and 38.7% from beyond the arc. Although it’s possible that Brad will start Thompson for matchup reasons.
Marcus Smart vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is averaging 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He is shooting 39.7% from the field and 31.4% from beyond the arc. He is capable of having a big game and the Celtics need to pay attention to him, especially going to the basket.
Kemba Walker vs Ricky Rubio
Kemba should be back for this game after sitting out Wednesday’s game. He will be matched up with Ricky Rubio, who has had some big games against the Celtics in the past. He is averaging 8.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is shooting 38.2% from the field and 26.6% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. The Timberwolves average 109.8 points per game while the Celtics average 111.9 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 111.6 (16th) while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 114.3 (27th). The Celtics have got to play tough team defense if they want to get back to winning on a consistent basis.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 43.9 rebounds per game to 43.0 rebounds per game for the Wolves. The Wolves are 8th in the league with 13.4 second chance points per game. Rebounding is effort and it seems that sometimes the Celtics just don’t work hard enough. 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.
Take Care of the Ball - The Wolves are 10th in the league with 17.9 points per game off turnovers. Against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Celtics were sloppy with the ball and turned it over 17 times and that is way too many. 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.
Move the Ball and Run - When the Celtics push the ball up the court and move the ball they are hard to beat. Too often they lapse into hero ball and iso’s and that doesn’t usually end well. They have to play as a team and move without the ball and look to move the ball to find the open man and the best shot. The more assists they rack up, the better the chance of getting a win.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics at times will start off slow and then have to dig themselves out of 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. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard right up until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Wolves outwork them for any period of time.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing the final game of a 7 game home stand. The Timberwolves have not been a very strong road team with an 5-22 road record. Celtics fans are once again in the building and should give the Celtics a boost. The Celtics need to defend their home court.
Underestimation - The Celtics have a penchant for playing down to bad teams. The Timberwolves are a perfect candidate for the Celtics to underestimate. They have the worst record in the league and they also have some young and hungry players who play hard. If the Celtics play well, this should be an easy game. If the Celtics underestimate them, it may be a tough game at best and a loss at worst.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating crew calls the game differently. Some refs call it tight and constantly call fouls while others let them play with few fouls called. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on playing the game. The Celtics have had Tony Brothers for the last 2 games so hopefully at least they won’t have him again in this game.