The Celtics continue their road trip with a stop in Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will face each other again on January 10 in Boston. The Celtics won the series against the Timberwolves 2-0 last season. The Celtics are 44-21 overall all time against the Timberwolves and 20-13 all time in Minnesota.
The Celtics are looking for their 6th straight win. The Celtics have started the season 5-0 for the 11th time in Celtics history. Of the previous 10 teams that started out 5-0, all 10 made the Eastern Conference Finals. 8 of those teams made it to the NBA Finals. 5 of those teams went on to become champions. The Celtics started 6-0 9 times including 2008 when they won their last title.
The Timberwolves are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game home stand. They beat the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz in their first two games of this home stand. They will close it out on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelican before heading out on a 5 game road trip. The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 3 game road trip and will face the 76ers on Wednesday to close it out.
Two way player Neemias Queta as out for this game with the foot injury. Derrick White missed Saturday’s game for the birth of his child and was originally expected to return for this game but is also listed as out. Kristaps Porzingis is questionable with a sty and Oshae Brissett is questionable due to a thumb injury. The Timberwolves list two way player Jaylen Clark out due to an Achilles injury.
This injury list for the Celtics pretty much leaves things up in the air as far as the starting lineup is concerned. Since Porzingis is a game time decision, we won’t know if he will play. I’m going to guess that Al Horford will start in place of White, who is out. If Porzingis is out, then I expect Horford to move to center and one of the reserve wings to start in place of White. Missing Porzingis would be tough against the Timberwolves big front line.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Kristaps Porzingis
2 Way Players
Neemias Queta (foot) out
Derrick White (personal) out
Kristaps Porzingis (eye) questionable
Oshae Brissett (thumb) questionable
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: Jaden McDaniels
PF: Karl Anthony-Towns
C: Rudy Gobert
Troy Brown, Jr
Wendall Moore, Jr
2 Way Players
Jaylen Clark (Achilles) out
Jaylen Brown vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is averaging 26.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He is shooting 50.0% from the field and 53.6% from beyond the arc. He was the best player on the recent US Men’s team and is capable of having a big game and the Celtics need to pay attention to him, both in the paint and on the perimeter, where he has been shooting very well.
Jayson Tatum vs Karl Anthony-Towns
Towns is averaging 18.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 39.1% from the field and 25.9% from beyond the arc. In spite of the low 3 point percentage, the Celtics must guard him beyond the arc because he has won a 3 point contest in 2022. With White out, Al Horford may be matched up against Towns, unless Porzingis is out.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Rudy Gobert
This will be a matchup of 2 very tall centers. Gobert is averaging 11.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 2.6 blocks. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and hasn’t hit any 3 pointers. Porzingis, on the other hand, is shooting 45.5% on 3 pointers and hopefully can pull Gobert away from the basket as he is a very good rebounder and rim protector. If Porzingis is out, then it’s possible that Al Horford will be matched up with Rudy Gobert.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. The Timberwolves average 109.2 points per game (21st) while the Celtics average 126.4 points per game (1st). The Celtics have a defensive rating of 106.5 (7th) while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 101.2 (1st). This is a matchup of the top offense of the Celtics against the top defense of the Timberwolves. The Celtics have got to play tough team defense if they hope to get a win in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 51.8 rebounds per game (1st) to 47.4 rebounds per game for the Timberwolves (5th). The Celtics will need to crash the boards to keep the Wolves from getting extra possessions and second chance points. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics have got to work harder on the boards than the Wolves, given the Wolves’ big front line.
Focus - The Celtics must come into the game focused on playing the right way as a team. They need to focus on moving the ball and moving without the ball as they rank 24th in assists per game. They have to focus on taking good shots and making them. They have to focus on making good passes and not get sloppy handling the ball because the Timberwolves average 17.4 points off turnovers per game. They have to stay focused on playing tough team defense and not miss defensive assignments because they aren’t paying attention.
Bench Play - If there is one recurring concern about the Celtics, it is that they lack depth. In some games, the reserves have come up big and in other games they have struggled. The Celtics must get more from their bench. This isn’t even a case of if someone gets hurt, it is a matter of getting contributions from the reserves in every game to keep the starters from burning out.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in their 2nd straight road game. They need to focus on the game and on playing with effort and not on the distractions of playing on the road. They can’t let the travel and staying in hotels and playing in front of a hostile crowd take away from their focus on the game.
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. The Celtics can’t afford to allow the other team to go on playing while Celtics players are hanging back and complaining about calls.