The Celtics continue their 7 game home stand as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves. After going 4-2 on their road trip, the Celtics are now winless in the first 3 games of their 7 game home stand. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet again in Minnesota on March 15.
The Timberwolves are playing in the first game of a 4 game road trip. The Celtics are 42-21 all time overall against the Timberwolves. They are 23-8 when the games are played in Boston. The Celtics and Timberwolves tied the series last season at one game each, with each team winning on their home court.
The Celtics are now 2nd in the East, half a game behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who they will face on Christmas Day. The Celtics are 1 game ahead of the 3rd place Cavaliers. The Celtics are 11-5 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games, having lost 3 in a row for the first time this season. They are 8-2 against Western Conference teams.
The Timberwolves are 10th in the West, 1.5 games ahead of the 11th place Warriors and 2 games behind 6th place Sacramento. They are 7-8 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They had won 3 straight before losing to the Mavericks on Wednesday. They are 7-4 against Eastern Conference teams.
Marcus Smart missed Wednesday’s game against the Pacers with a non-covid illness and he is probable for this game. Robert Williams (illness) is now questionable and his status will be a game time decision. Danilo Gallinari remains out with a torn ACL. For the Timberwolves, Kyle Anderson (back) has missed the last two games and is quesionable for this game. His status is a game time decision. If he is able to play, he will likely return to the starting lineup in place of Austin Rivers.
Rudy Gobert returned to action on Wednesday after missing the 3 previous games with an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable for this game. If he can’t play, Naz Reid will likely get the start. Jordan McLaughlin (calf), Taurean Prince (shoulder) and Karl Anthony-Towns (calf) are all listed as out for this game.
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Robert Williams III
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (illness) questionable
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Rivers
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jaden McDaniels
C: Rudy Gobert
Wendell Moore, Jr
Kyle Anderson (back) questionable
Rudy Gobert (ankle) questionable
Jordan McLaughlin (calf) out
Taurean Prince (shoulder) out
Karl Anthony-Towns (calf) out
Jaylen Brown vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is averaging 23.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He is shooting 45.5% from the field and 36.2% 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. Hopefully Jaylen will be able to play well in this game because the Celtics will need him on both ends of the court.
Marcus Smart vs D’Angelo Russell
Russell is averaging 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. He is shooting 46.0% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him from scoring but they also need to disrupt the Wolves bringing the ball up the court and keep them from getting into their offense quickly. Hopefully Marcus is good to play in this game as the Celtics need him.
Al Horford vs Rudy Gobert
It is a tall order for Al Horford (or any Celtic) to defend the 7’1” Rudy Gobert. Gobert is averaging 14.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 66.1% from the field and does not typically shoot 3 pointers. He is a very good rim protector and so the Celtics need to be aware of his presence when driving to the basket.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. So far, we have only seen the Celtics play tough lock down defense in spurts. The Timberwolves average 114.9 points per game, which is 11th in the league. The Celtics average 118.0 points per game, which is 2nd. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.6, which is 7th, while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 112.3 (12th). The Celtics have struggled on offense in recent games and they have not had their defense to lean on when the shots aren’t going in. If their shooting slump has taught them anything, it is that they need to get back to making defense their identity.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 43.6 rebounds per game (12th) to 42.5 rebounds per game for the Wolves (22nd). The Celtics will need to crash the boards to keep the Wolves from getting extra possessions and second opportunities on the offensive end. Rebounding requires effort and the Celtics are going to have to out-work the Wolves on the boards. To win this game, the Celtics need to put in extra effort to crash the boards and beat the Wolves to the rebounds.
Make an Effort - The Celtics have come into these last 3 games with a very lackluster effort. In the two losses to the Magic and the one to the Pacers, the Celtics have allowed young team to play harder than them and show more effort on both ends of the court. The Celtics have got to get back to out-working teams.
Stay Focused - The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to focus on making good passes and not get sloppy handling the ball because the Timberwolves are 9th in the league with 18.5 points off turnovers per game. If the Celtics get sloppy they will definitely make them pay. The Celtics also must stay focused on moving the ball and finding the open man and taking good shots and making them. The Celtics have to focus on playing team ball as they looked like they had never played together before against the Pacers.
It’s Called Home Court Advantage for a Reason - There is a reason why they call it home court advantage. The Celtics should be dominating at home. They have the crowd behind them and if they give a good effort, win or lose, the fans will cheer them on and help to motivate them. It is when the team lacks effort that the crowd will turn on their own team. The Wolves had to travel, stay in a hotel, play in front of a hostile crowd and on an unfamiliar court. The Celtics need to come out with effort in front of the home crowd and protect their home court.
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 can’t afford to allow the other team to go on offense while players are hanging back and complaining about calls. The Celtics can’t let the officiating get into their heads.