Celtics Outlast Timberwolves, 114-98

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up a quick two game swing to the East Coast on Friday night in Beantown.  Both teams entered the game well under .500 and have started making the appropriate moves for their roster.  Earlier Friday, Woj dropped news that the Timberwolves worked out a trade with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.  Fan favorites Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf are on their way out of Minnesota, with our Pups getting back SG Troy Daniels and two second round picks.  Hours earlier the Celtics sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks with Dwight Powell for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, picks, and a trade exception.

With all of that roster movement out of the way, the Wolves and Celtics took to the floor this evening in an entertaining night of basketball.  The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Celtics countered with Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller.

The Wolves held a 13-12 lead six minutes into the game and heading into the first stoppage in play.  Wiggins was off to a slow start (0-3 shooting) but Shabazz had two nice post-up moves for two buckets.  The Celtics were led early by Avery Bradley who was attacking the Wolves’ rookie PG, putting up seven shots in the first six minutes.

Tyler Zeller picked up two fouls and gave way to Kelly Olynyk.  The Garden quickly became Olynyk’s playground as the Center finished the 1st quarter with 11 points on 5-7 shooting, to go along with 3 rebounds, an assist, and a block.  At the end of Q1 the Celtics held a 27-24 advantage.

The teams battled back and forth in the 2nd quarter.  Olynyk continued to lead the way for the Celtics, while the Pups offered up a balanced attack on the offensive end of the floor … and very little defensively.  Chase Budinger received some early minutes tonight and made the most of them, opening up by hitting his first three shots for 7 quick points.  However, the Celtics went on a little bit of a run to close out the half, going up by eight eights before Shabazz hit a three pointer to cut the lead to 53-48 at the half.

After showing signs of falling apart late in the second quarter, the Wolves defense became visibly worse coming out of the locker room.  The Celtics rebuilt an eight point lead largely due to poor team defense and an inability to control the defensive boards.  With Anthony Bennett on the bench, Flip stuck with Thad Young against Jared Sullinger and all that did was hurt the Wolves on the defensive end of the floor.  At the end of the third quarter, the Celtics held an 83-77 lead.

Despite strong efforts for three and a half quarters, the Wolves started to fall apart late in the 4th quarter.  The Celtics opened up a double digit lead and seemed to track down every loose ball and find the open man on the Wolves’ defensive rotations.  After cutting the lead to three points (95-92), the Celtics pulled away and finished the game on fire from the field.  The last six minutes of the game were an abomination for the Wolves, who struggled in every aspect of the game.

The final score: Boston 114, Minnesota 98.

Game Notes:

  • Shabazz Muhammad took his role as starting wing seriously, putting in 26 points on a very efficient 11-15 shooting to go along with a career high 5 assists.
  • Chase Budinger had a season high 19 points on 8-12 shooting.
  • The Celtics had six different players with double digit points, led by Olynyk’s 21 points on 8-13 shooting.

2013/2014 Eastern Conference Preview


It has been the Heat's Conference recently, does that change in 2014?

It has been the Heat’s Conference recently, does that change in 2014?


Last week we previewed the (stacked) Western Conference and now it is time to tackle the East.  The Miami Heat look to make it not one, not two, but three conference championships in a row.  Can they do it?  Who can rise to the occasion?  Who is at the bottom of the barrel?  Let’s start there …

15. Philadelphia 76ers: I find it glorious that for David Stern’s final season, there is a team with enough charisma to say, “Here we are … tanking in all its glory” from the day the draft took place all the way through the trading deadline.  Where will Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young wind up?  I’m not sure they care, as long as it is out of Philly.  While I like what Philly did on draft night acquiring Noel and MCW, there is no hope for this team in 2013/14.  Zero.  Zilch.

14. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo is very likely going to be a very good NBA player, but this team lacks talent across its frontcourt.  If they can find a taker for Jameer Nelson during the season, they might give the Sixers a run for their money on ping pong balls.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dan Gilbert wants this team in the playoffs, yet continues to do the strangest things on draft night.  I love Kyrie Irving, I just wish he played almost anywhere else in the league.  Cavs fans have to hope that Michael Bennett doesn’t eat himself out of the league (not a ringing endorsement for the #1 pick of the draft) and rely on getting something from Andrew Bynum and/or Anderson Varejao.  This isn’t going to end well.

12. Boston Celtics: The Celtics are rebuilding but I can’t put them any lower than this, given what you just read.  In fact, I actually wanted to put them a little bit higher, but figure this seems about right if Danny Ainge wakes up one day and says, “You know what, we are too good to get enough ping pong balls, Rondo needs to go”.  Rajon Rondo and the supporting cast (Jeff Green, Courtney Lee) are good enough to stay ahead of the prior three teams.

11. Charlotte Bobcats: On paper, this is a pretty intriguing team that you might want to keep an eye on, but then you remember it is the Bobcats.  They have a serviceable rotation of guards, signed Big Al Jefferson, and I love MKG.  Then I remember that they are the Bobcats and just drafted Cody Zeller at #4 ahead of a handful of others that would have been a nice fit.  Would the real Bismack Biyombo please stand up this season?

10. Detroit Pistons: This is going to be fun, right?  Right?!  Chauncey Billups returning to Detroit and trying to lead the Pistons with Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond.  At what point does Billups flat out retire?  It would be great if he just walked out of the locker room at halftime to never come back.  This is where we start thinking about teams that could sneak their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs … with 35 wins.

9. Toronto Raptors: Another team that is intriguing on paper and then you give yourself a reality check on second glance.  Do you want Kyle Lowry as your starting PG?  Is DeMar DeRozan ever going to turn it on?  How much of a leap is Jonas Valanciunas really going to make in one year?  Is Rudy Gay just going to shoot 33% from the field this year on 1,500 shots?  Sorry, no playoffs for this franchise.

PLAYOFF TEAMS                                                                                                                               

8. Washington Wizards: Relying on the health of an already injured Emeka Okafor may not be the wisest strategy, but there is too much talent here to not make the playoffs in the East.  John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. (another great pick from the Wizards front office?), and enough able bodies for big men.  If you go to their second unit, you have some defensive studs as well with Singleton and Ariza on the wing.  This could be a team to keep an eye on and is already on my League Pass watch-list.

7. Milwaukee Bucks: Every year I get sucked in and every year there is disappointment.  Where OJ Mayo goes, so does some bizarre allegiance to overrate the team he’s playing on.  That bus landed in Milwaukee this year.  I like their big men as a group, but not any particular individual.  You have ex-Wolf Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight as the PG’s and Gary Neal as the fourth wheel in the backcourt.  It will be interesting to see what they get out of the SF position where the Bucks have two wily veterans in Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino.  This roster is good enough to make the playoffs.  (Until it isn’t)

6. New York Knicks: Look at how the NY Giants football season is going and that is what I would like to predict for the Knicks.  However, they have too much talent for the Eastern Conference to go any lower than this.  They will play .500 ball and get into the playoffs with ease.  Here’s what I like about the team: Tyson Chandler, from a few years ago.  That’s it.  There is nothing on this roster that I like.  Despite his gaudy numbers, there is virtually nothing Carmelo can do to not make me believe that he is an underachiever; outside of taking less than max money in his next contract and deferring to another star in order to win a championship.

5. Atlanta Hawks: This is my Eastern Conference “I have no idea where to put this team, so they are going here”.  I cannot give a team home court advantage in round 1 of the playoffs if that is my general feeling towards the team, so they land at #5.  Love the Paul Millsap and Al Horford combination, like Jeff Teague, but have no idea what to think of their rotation of wings.  The Hawks’ wings really just need to fill roles though, right?  That should be good enough for a .500+ record and another trip to the postseason, only to be quickly disposed by the …

4. Chicago Bulls: We’ll get to this when we go through the playoff brackets later, but I see the Bulls coasting through the regular season, monitoring Derrick Rose’s minutes, resting him occasionally, etc. This team is tough as nails and will do what is necessary to get to right around the 50 win mark.  It won’t be pretty, we won’t enjoy it when they beat up the Wolves in the paint, but this team will get it done.

3. Brooklyn Nets: Prokhorov’s tax bill is “a bit” much, but you have to love an owner that is willing to spend any and all money possible to put together a championship contender.  Unfortunately for the Nets, there are too many stronger teams that will grind this team out of the playoffs at some point.  Deron Williams has a lot to prove and I see this team putting together a very strong regular season due to all of the veterans in the locker room.

Best of luck to KG in Brooklyn and a big “kudos” for the Big Ticket in wearing the #2 jersey with the Nets – in memory of Malik Sealy.  I might have to drag myself to the Barclay’s Center to see KG one last time in person.

2. Indiana Pacers: The country finally got to see who Paul George was and what this Pacers roster is all about in last year’s playoffs.  I don’t expect them to digress whatsoever.  In fact, if Danny Granger can stay healthy and Luis Scola provides quality backup minutes at the PF/C spots, this team is very, very dangerous.  Quite honestly, I love this team.

(You didn’t think I would talk about the Pacers and not mention David Kahn’s selection of Wesley Johnson over Paul George, did you?  The worst lottery pick the franchise has ever made.  The worst … and the bar is pretty ‘high’ for that proclamation.  THE WORST!  Let’s move on before my blood pressure pills start wearing off …)

1. Miami Heat: The Heat won something like 75 games in a row (it was 27) last season and the NBA Championship.  You know the story and the cast of characters.  Until someone knocks them off the pedestal, it is hard to place them anywhere else.

Which brings us to the playoffs, based on the seeds above.  Here is how I see the Eastern Conference Playoffs unfolding:

Eastern Conference

The top four teams in the East are light-years ahead of the rest of the conference, so they should all advance pretty easily out of the first round – unless you like the Knicks.  Then things get very interesting.  As mentioned above, I think the Bulls take it “easy” in the regular season a bit but knock out the defending champs, which sets up a close to epic battle against the Pacers.  I simply believe it is the Pacers time.

The early exit for the Heat leads to about 15 million stories and rumors about LeBron heading back to Cleveland, to the Lakers, etc. etc.  That’s going to be a lot of fun!

What do you think?  Is it too early to dethrone the Heat?  Do they have another trophy coming?  What are your surprise or disappointment teams in the conference?  Let us know below!

Minnesota Timberwolves 94 – Boston Celtics 104

The Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Boston on Wednesday night for the tail end of their back-to-back road trip in what was to be an exciting matchup against the franchise’s former poster boy, Kevin Garnett. The Wolves, never having defeated Boston since the blockbuster trade that sent “The Big Ticket” out east, entered the TD Garden the night after an 18-point win over Philadelphia in which the team sank 13 three-pointers. However, last night’s blessings did not hold true and the Timberpups fell to the Celtics 104-94.

This game ultimately came down to defense and free throw shooting. The Pups had a miserable night at the charity stripe, only converting on 14 of their 30 attempts. Having lost the game by 10 points, it is very concerning when the entire team missed a total of 16 free throws and shooting under 50% from the free throw line. It is pretty tough to win a game when you are unable to take advantage of points handed to you from the opposing team, especially in a very tough road environment. It also did not help that Andrei Kirilenko was once again unavailable due to back spasms.

A main storyline of tonight’s game was the frontcourt matchup of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic against Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. Minnesota’s frontcourt was largely expected to dominate the game in the paint, but the ageless KG was once again able to overpower Love while forcing turnovers out of the Pups’ bigs. At age 36, Garnett played an extremely efficient 27 minutes and finished the game with 18 points (8-13 FG), 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers.

On the other end, K-Love had a game to forget as he turned the ball over 5 times while missing 6 of his 12 free throw attempts. Love did far too much arguing with referees and far too little of hustling back on defense. The All-Star PF looked clearly rattled in his matchup against KG, and should definitely be criticized for his effort on the defensive end. As I have stated before, one blatant difference separating Love from Garnett is KG’s devotion to the defensive side of the ball, whereas Love has been a marginal to poor defender his entire career to date. Yes, Love lacks the athleticism that had previously made KG such an imposing defender. But at age 36, Garnett no longer has the same bounce and agility that he once did, and it could be argued that Love is currently better suited to be a great defender than KG himself. The lack of effort on defense is what continues to keep Love from achieving the ultimate superstardom that KG previously attained.

Fresh off his two-game suspension, PG Rajon Rondo returned to Boston’s starting lineup against the Wolves in what promised to be a significant mismatch against Minnesota PGs Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. Rondo, one of the quickest players in the NBA, did an excellent job of penetrating and kicking out of the Timberwolves half-court defense. Rondo finished with 17 points and 11 assists in 38 minutes.

Boston did a masterful job hard-hedging off screens and effectively slowed down Minnesota’s pick-and-roll game. Boston’s compensated for their lack of dominant interior defense by their tremendous use of double-teaming and excellent defensive rotations. As all Doc Rivers’ teams do, the Celtics were persistent closing out shots and were able to get a hand in Wolves players faces all night.

The Timberwolves headed into the locker room at halftime with a 51-47 lead, while having only converted on 7 of their 14 free throw attempts. Minnesota held the advantage on turnovers, as the Celtics committed 10 to only 5 Pups turnovers. KG got hot early defended by Love, and used his signature turnaround to drain non-defendable 10-footers over his successor.

The Pups did a very poor job of boxing out in the second half and allowed far too many second chance opportunities. Rookie Jared Sullinger was one of the main beneficiaries of Minnesota’s rebounding struggles, as he provided 7 points and 7 rebounds in a productive 18 minutes off the bench.

Few players impressed me tonight, the first being Nikola Pekovic. Pek countered double-teams on the low post with smart kick outs to the perimeter, and did not record a single turnover in 32 minutes of action. Minnesota’s starting center finished the game with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.

Another player who has really impressed me these past few weeks has been Josh Howard, who after recording a double-double last night provided 12 points and no turnovers tonight. Howard has done a remarkable job getting an arm in passing lanes and was able to provide 3 steals in 33 minutes.

I could dissect this game and individual performances as long as I want to, but it seems like that would be unfair given the nature of this game. Yes, the Wolves were not going to shoot 60% again tonight, and in fact they really struggled. The missed free throws seemed to be a chain reaction as once Love started missing them, everyone followed suit. What bothers me most about tonight is K-Love’s pouting and lack of effort on defense. He is getting to the point in his career where he needs to recognize that in order to be truly dominant, he needs to become at least an above-average defender. Here are my three stars of the game:

  1. Kevin Garnett
  2. Jason Terry
  3. Rajon Rondo

Preview: T’wolves at Celtics

Setting the stage

Photo Credit: Hoopedia

The T’wolves come into Wednesday’s game with a little bit of momentum, having won their last two games, including last night’s blowout in Philadelphia.  The ease of last night’s win allowed Coach Adelman to limit the amount of minutes Kevin Love and other starters had to endure and potentially leaves them with a bit more bounce in their step for tonight’s match-up in Boston.

Minnesota continues to play very strong team defense and is currently ranked fourth in the league in points allowed per game (92.3).  The team showed some life last night on the offensive end finally, putting up 105 points – which included 65 by halftime from the regular rotation.  Hopefully, some of that performance carries over to the TD Garden this evening; most specifically the performance the team received from Josh Howard last night (16 & 10) as he will match-up with Pierce on the floor given Andrei Kirilenko’s continued absence.

The bad news for the Pups is that Rajon Rondo returns from his two game suspension and is “probably” ready to get back into the action.  As their record suggests (9-8), the Celtics have been pretty average so far this season.  They come into the game 15th in the league in scoring at 97.5 ppg.  Somewhat surprisingly, the team is playing average to below average defense, allowing 97.9 ppg which is good for 17th in the league.  An area we can expect the Twolves to exploit tonight against the Celtics is on the boards, as our opponent comes in dead last in the league at 37.4 rpg.

I’ve gone far enough without mentioning that this is one of two times each season that the Twolves and their fans get to see KG up close and in direct competition with his former team.  I don’t think we need to go down the accolades.  In fact, I’m a little perturbed to the fact that when you now search for Kevin Garnett on Google Images, the first three pages has him wearing a Celtics uniform.  It will be good to see KG on the floor playing his former team once again and maybe we’ll get to see/hear a profanity laced tirade directed at one of the current Pups (Stiemsma is the odds on favorite here, right?).

Player to watch

Rajon Rondo – As mentioned earlier, Rondo is probably chomping at the bit to get back onto the court following his suspension.  What better way for a speedy PG to get readjusted than to face one of the weaker defensive teams in the league at PG.  Ridnour will likely get the start, but you can see how and why it makes sense to see JJ Barea playing extended minutes tonight to try and contain Rondo.  Rajon leads the league in assists per game with a 12.9 average, while also averaging the same in points.

Match-up to watch

Love vs. KG.  While KG has been playing Center for the Celtics, I can’t imagine that Doc Rivers will have him guarding Pekovic when Brandon Bass is on the floor with him.  The past superstar vs. the present.  Love comes into the game dominating the boards since his return (14.6 rpg), while KG is only averaging 7.4 rpg.  To be fair, Doc Rivers is limiting KG’s minutes as best he can early on this season, playing him under 30 mpg.  It will be interesting to see these two match-up again and who will come out on top.


We’ll see if the Twolves can win back to back games on the East coast.  This will be a tough test however, as the Celtics come into the game with a few days rest having not played since this past Saturday.

Final score prediction: Boston 91, ‘Sota 86

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Rajon Rondo
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Paul Pierce

Let’s go Wolves!