The Celtics complete a two game home stand with their second and final game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics lost the first game against the Wolves 108-103 at Minnesota. That game was a battle of the skeleton crews during the height of the Covid outbreak earlier in the year. Celtics had 10 players out and the Wolves had 9 players out, including most of their starting 5. The Celtics’ bench was Joe Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Norvel Pelle, Sam Hauser, Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez and Payton Pritchard.
The Celtics have climbed to 3rd in the East. They have won their last 5 games and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. They have also won 21 of their last 24 games. They are 25-12 at home and 16-12 against Western Conference teams. They are half a game behind 1st place Philadelphia and 2nd place Miami. They are tied with 4th place Milwaukee, but own the tie breaker with one more game to play against the Bucks. They are 3.5 games ahead of 5th place Chicago, 4 games ahead of 6th place Toronto, and 4.5 ahead of 7th place Cleveland.
The Timberwolves are 7th in the West and are playing to get out of the play in bracket and back into the playoffs. They are coming off a win over the Mavericks on Friday. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 18-19 on the road. They have won 5 of their last 7 on the road. They are 14-12 against Eastern Conference teams. They are just half a game behind 6th place Denver and 2.5 games behind 5th place Dallas and 4th place Utah. They are 7 games ahead of the 8th place Clippers.
This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics and the second game of a 2 game home stand. After a 4-0 western road trip, they beat the Utah Jazz at home. After this game, they head to Toronto for one game on the road and then return home for games against Miami, Indiana and Washington. They will then close out the season with 3 games on the road against Chicago, Milwaukee and Memphis. The Celtics are 7-6 in the first of back to back games and they are 1-1 when the games are home/road.
The Celtics won the series 2-0 last season. The Timberwolves December 27 win over the Celtics snapped a 9 game losing streak vs Boston. The Celtics have won their last 14 games against the Timberwolves that have been played in Boston. Overall, the Celtics are 41-21 against the Timberwolves and they are 22-8 in games played in Boston. The Wolves are a tough team this season and they swept both the Bucks and the Heat series this season
The Celtics will be without Al Horford in this game as he will be out due to personal reasons. I would expect that Grant Williams gets the start in his place. Jaylen Brown (right knee soreness) and Jayson Tatum (right patella tendinopathy) are both probable for this game. For the Timberwolves, Malik Beasley is out after injuring his ankle in the 2nd quarter of Friday’s win over the Mavericks. Jaden McDaniels (ankle) is also out. Jordan McLaughlin (quad) is questionable.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Robert Williams
Jaylen Brown (Knee) probable
Jayson Tatum (knee) probable
Al Horford (personal) out
- Jordan McLaughlin Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
- Anthony Edwards Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
- Jaden McDaniels Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images
- Karl Anthony-Towns Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
- Rudy Gobert Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Malik Beasley (ankle) out
Jaden McDaniels (ankle) out
McLaughlin (quad) questionable
McKinley Wright IV
Robert Williams III vs Karl-Anthony Towns
This will be a real challenge for Timelord as Townes is playing very well and is a tough cover. He is averaging 24.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He is shooting 52.9% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. He is dangerous in the paint and also on the perimeter so someone needs to cover him at all times.
Jayson Tatum vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 43.2% from the field and 35.4% 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. Hopefully Jayson will be able to play in this game without being limited by a sore knee because the Celtics will need him on both ends of the court.
Marcus Smart vs D’Angelo Russell
Russell is averaging 18.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. He is shooting 41.3% from the field and 34.4% 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.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. The Celtics have made tough defense their identity and they need to continue to do so if they want to keep winning. The Timberwolves average 115.4 points per game, which is first in the league. The Celtics average 110.4 points per game, which is 16th. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 105.8, which leads the league, while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 110.1 (11th). The Celtics have got to play tough team defense if they hope to get a win in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game (5th) to 44.7 rebounds per game (11th) for the Wolves. The Wolves are 3rd in the league with 15.1 second chance points per game and so 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 and limit their second chance points.
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 first in the league with 19.7 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.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to come out and be aggressive right from the opening tip. They have to be aggressive on defense, driving to the basket, rebounding, diving for loose balls and just playing harder in general. 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. They have to play with confidence and play harder than the Wolves on both ends of the court.
Rust vs Rest - The Celtics have been off since Wednesday while the Timberwolves played on Friday. The rest will be good for the little bumps and bruises that the team has accumulated but also at times, a team that has been off will come out with a bit of rust. The Celtics should be rested and hopefully that will result in a strong start for them. The Celtics can’t afford to get off to a slow start due to being off for 3 days before this game. They have to be mentally tough and come out strong right from the start.
Home vs Road - The Celtics are at home and that should be an advantage for them. The Wolves are 18-19 on the road, but have won 5 of their last 7 on the road. Playing on the road involves fatigue from travel, distractions from staying in a hotel and being away from family and playing in front of a hostile crowd. The Celtics need to take advantage being at home and having the crowd behind them.
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.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are a six-point favorite hosting the Timberwolves at TD Garden. Minnesota has been just as good as Boston over the last month-plus, nearly climbing out of the play-in tournament and proving themselves against playoff competition. They’re balanced with three three-level scorers in Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell, a supporting cast of plus defenders, and Patrick Beverly breathing life and fire into the Timberwolves’ renaissance.
Heading into the game, Boston’s big concern is the absence of Al Horford, particularly against Towns. Robert Williams most likely takes that assignment now which removes him from the free safety role he’s flourished in on defense. It’s possible that Grant Williams and/or Daniel Theis covers KAT too, but Horford not being available for personal reasons really puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the roster against one of the league’s best offenses and their leading scorer.
Over the last month, extended layoffs haven’t hurt Boston’s momentum and rest is always welcomed this late into the season. Over their last five games (including four out west), the Celtics are shooting 46% from behind the arc and averaging 29 assists per game. If you were an early season optimist who believed that water would find its level at some point, logic would suggest that they can’t keep up this torrid pace. But against a surging Timberwolves team, they might need another hot shooting night to ace of another Western Conference test.
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