*Check out The Howl Podcast for everything Timberwolves HERE *
Game Preview: Timberwolves at Celtics
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the crazy things Ricky Rubio is doing on the court right now. Monday’s game against the Wizards saw Rubio achieve a new career high in assists (19), and post his first consecutive 20-point game of the season. The man has been playing out of his mind since the All-Star break, posting an ungodly line of 15-12-5 with 2 steals. I know this season’s been a roller coaster ride for the Minnesota PG, and much of the early season struggles were unfairly placed squarely on his shoulders, what with the poor shooting and trade rumors, but nothing has been more joyful to watch than Ricky’s emergence as point-god on the basketball court. Rubio’s future with the team is still a little murky. Its uncertain what Thibs’ vision for the future in Minnesota holds, but its important to recognize beautiful basketball on display this month and pray Ricky can’t keep it going for as long as their’s games left to play this season. The Timberwolves are 4-2 since the start of March, and a win tonight inch themselves a tiny bit closer to a possible playoff spot over the Nuggets.
The Celtics have been a little more streaky since ending their incredible 11-1 run during the start of February. They’re 5-6 over the past 11, including shaky losses to teams like Chicago and Phoenix. They host Minnesota after a decisive win over the Bulls, however, humiliating the team with their stifling defense, an unexpected development given their middling performance in that category for most of the previous portion of the season (they rank 14th in defensive rating on the year). Boston was able to hold Chicago to a putrid .379 from the field, including a combined 5-22 from Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. We’ll see if their stalwartness on the other side of the floor was just a fluke, or if Minnesota might have to develop a new game plan on the fly tonight to combat Boston’s new-found perimeter defense. The Celtics are 42-25 and currently sit at the number 2 spot in the East.
PG: Ricky Rubio #9
SG: Brandon Rush #4
SF: Andrew Wiggins #22
PF: Gorgui Dieng #5
C: Karl-Anthony Towns #32
PG: Isaiah Thomas #4
SG: Avery Bradley #0
SF: Jae Crowder #99
PF: Amir Johnson #90
C: Al Horford #42
Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic – out/season (recurring ankle pain), Zach Lavine – out/season (Torn left ACL), Adreian Payne – doubtful (illness)
Celtics: James Young – questionable (tailbone)
Boston and Minnesota last squared off in November, with the Celtics winning a deceptively tight one, 99-93. Much of the Timberwolves scoring surge was done in the last 30 seconds when the game was all but over.
As was typical during this stretch of the season, the Timberwolves lost in incredibly frustrating fashion. The entire back-court struggled to get their shots to drop, with the Rubio-Lavine-Wiggins tandem shooting a combined 10-37, including 1-16 from beyond the arc. The offense was baffling because its not like the team didn’t have other opportunities to score. Minnesota absolutely dominated the offensive glass, racking up 16 offensive rebounds, but they just couldn’t convert them into second chance points. Gorgui and Towns were both monsters, with KAT posting a 27-18-3 line to compliment Dieng’s 20-10-3, but incredibly poor play from the wings just never game Minnesota a chance. Isaiah Thomas scored 29, doing most of his damage from the free throw line, and the Celtics deep bench simply over powered Minnesota with their sheer number of bodies. It was a fluke of a game that hopefully doesn’t have the chance to repeat itself.
The Celtics play small, and the combination of Dieng and Towns in the front-court proved difficult for Boston during the first go round. Minnesota is guaranteed the chance to rack up a few second-chance points, and with the way the starters have been playing since the end of the break, this game shouldn’t be a repeat of the last. The Celtics will try to hide Thomas on Rubio on the defensive end, but with Ricky’s miraculous new confidence, (he’s having the best shooting year of his career, and since the All-Star break he’s .455 from the field including .391 from 3) Boston will have no choice but to respect his shot. All hail Ricky Rubio.
Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by-play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by-play)
(All stats found on nba.com, and basketball-reference.com)