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 Dec. 23. The two teams last played on the road on Monday. The 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, the standings are getting closer and closer. The Bucks and 76ers kept winning while the Celtics lost games they should have won. The Celtics are 3 games behind the first place Bucks and only 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 playoff spot. They are 1.5 games ahead of 11th-place Oklahoma City and dropped out of the 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 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 in Atlanta on Monday and plays 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) 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 questionable with a calf injury. Austin Rivers has missed 4 of the last 5 games and is questionable with back spasms. Rudy Gobert is playing through injury but is questionable for this game with an ankle injury. They will all be game time decisions. Karl-Anthony Towns is out with a calf injury.
Most likely 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 (temporary)
Likely 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 shot 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 has the ability to have big plays and the Celtics need to pay attention to him, especially going to the basket.
Al Horford vs. Rudy Gobert
It’s 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 shoots 67% from the field and rarely takes 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.
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is the key to winning every game. The Timberwolves are averaging 115.7 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 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 will need to play strong team defense if they hope to win this game.
Rebound – The Celtics average 45.1 rebounds per game to 41.5 rebounds per game for the Timberwolves. The Celtics will need to crash the boards to prevent the Wolves from gaining additional possessions and second chance points. They allowed the Rockets to pull down 15 offensive rebounds and they need to do better in this game. Rebounding is an effort and sometimes the Celtics seem to lack the work. The Celtics will have to put in an extra effort to knock down the boards and beat the Wolves in rebounds and limit their second chance points.
Play Hard 48 Minutes – The Celtics have too many times started slow and then had to dig themselves out of an early hole, or else they would start strong and get a big lead and then let the opponent come back into the game and have to fight back until the end and often lose games where they have a big lead. In some games, like against the Rockets, they lacked energy and effort throughout the game. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Wolves outwork them for any length of time. They need 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 only had 19 assists on Monday. They need to focus on taking good shots and making them. They need to focus on making good passes and not be sloppy with the ball because the Timberwolves are averaging 18.2 points off turnovers per game. They need to stay focused on playing tough team defense and not miss out on 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 playing with effort and not the distractions of playing on the road. They can’t let traveling and staying in hotels and playing in front of bad people detract from their focus on playing the game the right way.
Officiating – Tenure always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating crew calls the game differently. Some refs call it strict and keep calling fouls while others let them play with a few fouls called. The Celtics have to adjust to how the refs call the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away from their focus on the play. The Celtics cannot afford to allow the other team to continue playing while Celtics players are refusing and complaining about calls.