The Boston Celtics visited Target Center Monday night, following a bad loss on Sunday against the Knicks in New York. Unfortunately for Wolves fans at the game, Kevin Garnett once again missed his return to Minnesota due to an injury. The Celtics came into the game as the seven seed in the Eastern Conference. The Wolves came into Monday’s game off of a Saturday night loss against Memphis, moving the team’s record to 26-46 on the season.
Par for the course when watching the Wolves, there were a few injuries to account for in the starting lineup on Monday night. However, they weren’t driven by the Pups for once! The Wolves opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams and Pekovic. The Celtics played without much of their ‘normal’ starting lineup, beginning the game with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox. Aside from Rondo and KG, the Celtics were also without Paul Pierce, who injured his leg on Sunday against the Knicks but was deemed out prior to the game for “personal reasons”.
The game had a nice flow early on with the Wolves and Celtics battling back and forth, particularly in the paint. Pekovic and Kirilenko drew several early fouls on the Celtics’ big men. At the same time, Rubio was aggressive looking for his shot and setting up others. The Celtics countered with fast starts from Avery Bradley and Jeff Green. Going into the first stoppage of play with under five minutes left in the 1st quarter, the Pups held a 17-13 lead.
At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 27-25 lead. Pekovic was dominant in the opening frame, finishing with 15 points on 5-6 shooting in the first twelve minutes. More importantly, he had already drawn 2 fouls on Wilcox and 3 on Shavlik Randolph. Overall, a very nice quarter from the Pups showing the ability to get to the free throw line and run Adelman’s offense.
The Wolves built a 42-36 lead going into a timeout with more than six minutes gone in the 2nd quarter. Alexey Shved had two baskets in the paint and looked like he was a lot fresher; he only played ~17 minutes in the two games Friday and Saturday night. Granted the Celtics were down their lead options and playing the second half of a back to back, but the Wolves were looking very good in the 1st half.
After the Celtics tied the game at 45, the Wolves went on a mini-run, taking a 57-52 lead into the locker room at the half. Here are a couple of halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- The last week or so of games has to make you yearn for “what could have been” with an even remotely healthy lineup for the better portion of the season.
- Very nice half of basketball from Pekovic (21 points) and Kirilenko (8 & 8).
- If the Celtics can’t get healthy (quickly) they are going to be in a lot of trouble trying to avoid the 8 seed and the Miami Heat.
The Wolves tried to break the game open in the 3rd quarter, building a double digit lead halfway through the quarter. After an AK47 steal and dunk to increase the lead to 12 points, Doc Rivers had seen enough and had to burn a timeout. It was essentially more of the same from the same three players on the Pups – Pekovic, AK, and Rubio. At the same time, the Wolves were doing a nice job shutting down the Celtics’ wings, holding Courtney Lee and Jeff Green to minimal contributions.
Boston made a small run towards the end of the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to six points going into the final frame at Target Center. The Wolves were a little lucky it wasn’t closer as they missed a few buckets in the final few minutes, while Boston also missed a three pointer at the buzzer. At the end of three, Minnesota led 84-78.
Someone call the league office and ask them to restart the NBA season with a healthy Wolves roster. The Pups got off to a 12-4 run to start the 4th quarter to increase their lead back to double digits. From there, it was only a matter of whether or not the Wolves would play fundamental basketball to hold on to the win and that is exactly what they were able to do. Minnesota outscored Boston in all four quarters Monday night, including 26-22 in the 4th, to win 110-100.
Keys of the Game
- Fast break points – The Wolves won the fast break battle 23-9. Without their new big three, the Celtics tried to slow down the game to a screeching halt, but the Wolves wanted nothing to do with that tempo and moved the ball up the court.
- Free throws – The Wolves were 25-27 (?!?!) from the charity stripe tonight, outpacing the Celtics 9-14 effort from the line.
- Turnovers – Watching this game and seeing the final lines, you almost wonder how the Wolves didn’t win by an even larger margin. Minnesota only turned the ball over 8 times Monday night, while Boston had 17.
Three Stars of the Game
- Nikola Pekovic – Another huge performance from Pekovic, with 29 points on 9-15 shooting from the field and 11-11 from the FT line. Pekovic set the tone early and dominated the Celtics big men in the paint, putting them both in foul trouble early.
- Andrei Kirilenko – Nice effort from AK47 Monday night, with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
- Dante Cunningham – Ham had another nice shooting night on the Target Center floor, going 7-12 from the field for 19 points. He also threw in 5 rebounds and 2 steals.