Kevin Love put up another double-double Monday night, but the forward’s numbers weren’t enough for a Timberwolves win. Love led his team with 27 points, and Nikola Pekovic added 13 points.
The two teams proved a fairly even matchup for most of the game, exchanging leads several times. Minnesota outscored its opponent in the second and fourth quarters, but ultimately Jared Sullinger and the Celtics pulled away with the 101-97 win.
According to ESPN.com, Celtics coach Brad Stevens encouraged Sullinger to “keep an eye on Kevin Love and try to learn whatever he could from the big man.”
Stevens’ advice certainly worked, because Sullinger took control of the floor toward the end of the evening. The score was tied twice during the final period, but Sullinger had 15 points and six rebounds in the fourth, including a tie-breaking shot from downtown at the 2:22 mark.
The 21-year-old refrained from taking all the credit, though. He said the following post game:
“We just tried to make it difficult. We understand that we’re small and we had to play as a group tonight. With Kevin Love playing inside-outside, got big [Pekovic] in there, and Corey Brewer likes to leak down and back-cut at times, so we were just protecting the rim as a unit and playing hard.”
Minnesota committed only seven turnovers and scored 40 points in the paint, but the team’s shooting percentage struggled throughout the night. Specifically, the starters performed below average. Ricky Rubio landed only two of 12 attempts, while Brewer was 1-of-8 from the field. Out of 26 shots from the charity stripe, the Wolves only made 15.
“I shot the ball [well]; it just didn’t go in,” Love said. “It was that way for all of our team. … We shot the ball pretty bad the whole game. We beat that team the majority of the time we play them.”
It was the bench squad that kept Minny competitive until the end. Dante Cunningham tallied 12 points, and JJ Barea and Alexey Shved scored 10 apiece. In addition, Barea dished out an impressive 11 assists.
1. Minnesota looking for more consistency from starters. Love and Pekovic have been delivering strong performances over the past several games, but inconsistency plagues the starting lineup. Kevin Martin, Rubio and Brewer have been unreliable as of late, and the Wolves are not a strong enough team to rely so heavily on their bench.
2. At this point, Wolves cannot afford losing. It’s obviously still early in the season, but there’s no such thing as insignificant games in the Western Conference. The competition once again proves much more intense in the West vs. the East, and Monday night’s four-point loss dropped the Timberwolves to No. 11, one game behind New Orleans.
3. Jared Sullinger shows huge potential. At only 21 years old, Sullinger is already showing glimpses of the player he will become. The forward promises to be a key part of Boston’s roster, and it won’t be long before he’s entering top forward conversations in the NBA.