The Celtics visit the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second and final game between them this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 121-109 in Boston on December 23. Both teams last played on the road on Monday. These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court.
The Celtics are still in 2nd place in the East, with the standings getting closer and closer. The Bucks and 76ers have continued to win while the Celtics have lost games they should have won. The Celtics are 3 games behind the first place Bucks and just 1 game ahead of the 3rd place 76ers. The Celtics are 21-13 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 18-6 against Western Conference teams. They lost their last game.
The Timberwolves are 7th in the West. They are 1 game behind the 6th place Clippers and the 5th place Warriors and a guaranteed spot in the playoff. They are 1.5 games ahead of 11th place Oklahoma City and dropping out of a play-in spot. They are 20-16 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 10-14 against Eastern Conference opponents. They won their last game.
The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 6 game road trip. They won the first game in Atlanta and then dropped the second game to the last place Houston Rockets. They will have back to back games at Portland on Friday and at Utah on Saturday before closing out the road trip on Tuesday in Sacramento. Minnesota won at Atlanta on Monday and are playing in this game at home before heading out on a 3 game road trip to Chicago, Toronto, and New York.
Robert Williams III (hamstring), Payton Pritchard (heel) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) all remain out for the Celtics. For the Timberwolves, Jaylen Nowell has missed the last 7 games with a knee injury and is questionable for this game. Naz Reid is also questionable with a calf injury. Austin Rivers has missed 4 of the last 5 games and is questionable with back spasms. Rudy Gobert has been playing through injury but is questionable for this game with an ankle injury. They will all be a game time decision. Karl-Anthony Towns is out with a calf injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Timberwolves Starters
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: Jaden McDaniels
PF: Kyle Anderson
C: Rudy Gobert
Wendell Moore, Jr
Rudy Gobert (ankle) questionable
Jaylen Nowell (knee) questionable
Naz Reid (calf) questionable
Austin Rivers (back) questionable
Karl Anthony-Towns (calf) out
Jaylen Brown vs Anthony Edwards
Edwards is averaging 24.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is shooting 45.9% from the field and 36.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game against Boston, he finished with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. He is capable of having a big game and the Celtics need to pay attention to him, especially going to the basket.
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 13.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. He is shooting 67% 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. The Timberwolves average 115.7 points per game while the Celtics average 117.7 points per game. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 111.1 (4th) while the Wolves have a defensive rating of 112.9 (11th). The Celtics didn’t play defense against the Rockets and it cost them a game they should have won. The Celtics have got to play tough team defense if they hope to get a win in this game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 45.1 rebounds per game to 41.5 rebounds per game for the Timberwolves. The Celtics will need to crash the boards to keep the Wolves from getting extra possessions and second chance points. They allowed the Rockets to pull down 15 offensive rebounds and they have to do better in this 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.
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 and often lose games they have had a big lead in. In some games, like against the Rockets, they lack energy and effort throughout the game. 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 figure out how to hold a lead and pull out a win.
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 had just 19 assists on Monday. 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 18.2 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.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in their 3rd 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 playing the right way.
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 playing while Celtics players are hanging back and complaining about calls.