The Celtics travel to Minnesota for their 2nd and final game against the Timberwolves. The Celtics won the first game 145-136 in a wild overtime game in Boston. The Celtics have won 8 straight in the series, going back to the 2016-17 season. Both are playing the first of back to back games with the Celtics playing at 1 in New York and the Timberwolves taking on the Mavericks at home on Sunday.
Even though the Timberwolves are out of the playoffs, they haven’t stopped trying to win. The Warriors have their lottery pick, which is currently 5th. The Wolves are playing for pride and possibly to impress probable new owner, Alex Rodriguez. They have won 6 of their last 10 games. The Celtics, on the other hand, have lost 7 of their last 10 and 9 of their last 13 games.
The Celtics are locked into 7th in the East. They will play whichever team ends up in 8th place. Currently Charlotte is 7th, one game ahead of 8th place Indiana. Charlotte plays at New York and at Washington, while Indiana hosts the Lakers and Toronto. The Celtics are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 14-20 on the road. They have lost their last 4 games.
The Timberwolves are 13th in the West, 1 game ahead of 14th Oklahoma City. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 12-22 at home. They lost their last game. They have just two players on the injury list. Malik Beasley is out with a hamstring injury and Jarrett Culver is out with an ankle injury.
The Celtics have a rather lengthy injury list for this game. Jaylen Brown (wrist) is out for the rest of the season. Robert Williams (toe), Kemba Walker (neck), Tristan Thompson (pectoral), and Marcus Smart (calf) are all listed as out. Jayson Tatum (ankle) and Evan Fournier (knee) are both listed as probable. I really have no idea who Brad will start for the 3 starters who are out. Possibly Waters and Nesmith again in the back court and I’m guessing Grant Williams but it may be Luke Kornet, Jabari Parker or even Tacko Fall.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Tremont Waters
SG: Aaron Nesmith
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Grant Williams
Robert Williams (toe) out
Jaylen Brown (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (neck) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Tristan Thompson (pectoral) out
Jayson Tatum (ankle) probable
Evan Fournier (knee) probable
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Malik Beasley (hamstring) out
Jarrett Culver (ankle) out
Grant Williams vs Karl-Anthony Townes
This will be a real challenge for whoever starts at center for the Celtics as Townes is playing very well and is a tough cover. He is averaging 24.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. He is shooting 48.6% from the field and 39.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these teams, Townes had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. I don’t see Grant matching up well with him, but the Celtics are kind of running short of centers.
Aaron Nesmith vs D’Angelo Russell
Russell is averaging 19.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. He is shooting 43.3% from the field and 39.5% from beyond the arc. He had 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists in the first game between these two teams.
Evan Fournier vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards has had a very good rookie year, averaging 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He is shooting 41.6% from the field and 32.9% from beyond the arc. In the first meeting he had 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Fournier is probable and so I expect he will play and will be tasked with slowing Edwards down.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. The Timberwolves average 111.8 points per game while the Celtics average 112.8 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 112.0 (18th) while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 114.3 (27th). The Celtics have got to play tough team defense if they hope to get back to winning again.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game to 43.5 rebounds per game for the Wolves. The Wolves are 8th in the league with 13.5 second chance points per game and so the Celtics will need to crash the boards to keep the Wolves from getting extra possessions. 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 2nd in the league with 18.5 points per game off turnovers. The Celtics have been turning the ball over way too much in recent games. 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 too many times have started off slowly and then had 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.
Matinee Game - The Celtics once again face an afternoon game. They are playing in their 12th afternoon game of the season. They are just 4-7 in the 11 previous games. The Celtics just seem to be sluggish when games get an early start. I’m hoping that a sense of desperation will overcome their sluggishness in the afternoon.
Injuries - The Celtics suddenly are very short handed. With 5 players out, including their top two centers, and 2 more who are probable, but banged up, they need to get the best game from every player who takes the court. The Timberwolves have just 2 players on the injury list and have been playing very well and so the Celtics need a next man up mentality and they must play hard.
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.