The Timberwolves now look like the team many expected to see this year. Despite the consternation that’s plagued them due to unrealistic expectations and massive defensive collapses, they look real as fuck now. As such, the Celtics do not treat this team lightly–as is appropriate; Boston’s first 2016-17 win over Minny was skin-of-the-teeth stuff. And they were right to do so. While the Cs won the war, the T-Wolves made a hell of a battle, only being undone by an unraveling in the game’s final frame.
THE GAME FLOW
[Note: Due to technical difficulties experienced by the bylined writer of this game story, the 2nd half was handled by Red’s Army writer Rich Jensen. To be clear, any and all fuckwords and their ilk are my doing, not his.]
The first quarter of this contest looked evenly matched. But even though Minny’s offense is often entirely contingent on the generational marvel of Karl-Anthony Towns and scoring excellence of Andrew Wiggins, they managed to use their size and defense to hold back Boston and get their own work done, taking a small lead.
Things went a bit pear-shaped the following quarter. The Timberwolves, as they have all season, took advantage of their admirable ability to accumulate second-chance points–which the Celtics, ahem, you might’ve heard this, DON’T OFTEN GET–to maintain and bolster their lead. They held it with good D, and also through Ricky Rubio’s efforts on all corners…including offense, and…if Rubio is scoring…teams in general should be in trouble considering all his other skills. It wasn’t until midway through the game’s second half that the Cs started to look like themselves, with Isaiah Thomas coming alive (19 in the first half!) and the T-Wolves began to show their defensive discombobulation of months past. Minnesota held the lead at the half, but just barely–60-58.
The Cs opened the 3rd on a small run, opening up an 8-point lead by the quarter’s midpoint. And then…they got nothing but iron for about 5 straight possessions, letting Minnesota close the gap. And then Minnesota also went cold: Honestly, much of Q3 was a straight-up brickfest, with both teams combining for 2 made baskets, 2 airballs and a whoooooole lot of running up and down the floor with no change in score.
Then, the C’s got hot and the Wolves stayed cold. They had built the lead back up to 8 by the end of the half, 85-77
The fourth started the way the third ended, with the Celtics pushing the pace and the Wolves just trying to keep up. Next thing you know, Boston’s up 13 and Thibs was calling a time out and the Celtics had their biggest lead of the game.
Minnesota made a little 4-0 run–all for naught, because it was followed by the most quintessentially Celtics play of the game. Al Horford, who’d feasted on the Wolves in even the darkest parts of the game, snagged a rebound and threw an outlet to Jaylen Brown. Brown, double-teamed in the lane, dished to a trailing Terry Rozier. Rozier couldn’t get a shot off but found Jerebko with a better angle for an easy FG. In the space of just seconds and a few feet, three different Celtics touched the ball in search of the best possible shot, and it was all downhill for Minny from there. Bradley hit a 3 to make it a 16-point lead. Then Thomas hit a 3 and it was a 19-point lead. At that point, the final score became the only subject for semantic debate.
With about a minute to go, Crowder snagged a rebound off a contested 3 attempt by Bradley, and the Garden crowd began its “HEY IT’S ALL OVER AND WE WON” buzz. The final minute went on as a formality–Amir Johnson got to the line on made baskets twice, for fuck’s sake–and the final score was 117-104, Boston.
I mean…there wasn’t much to gripe about here. The Celtics shouldn’t have had their foot off the gas in the first half and part of Q3, but a 31-15 run answered that about as decisively as you could ask for, and it’s not like Minnesota are a shit team or anything, so…yeah, I’m good.
And people question Al Horford’s value. Pfft. Nerds.
“BJELICA ALMOST WENT BACK TO EUROPE.” My lord, Tommy Heinsohn…you are a doofus and also never, ever, ever, EVER change. Isaiah dances between defenders like Beyonce amid a swath of ensemble steppers.
Al Horford: 20-9-8-0-2, on 75 percent shooting and only 1 turnover. Arguably the big fella’s best game as a Celtic. Horford showed every iota of the multifaceted skill set that made him beloved in Atlanta and earned him a max deal from Boston.
Isaiah Thomas: 27-3-4-1 with 2 turnovers on an efficient 8-15 shooting performance. Not a highlight-filled outing by The King in the Fourth–but honestly that’s a good thing. Why? Because it’s effectively proof that his performances are no longer “the guy who has to score the points because others won’t” or ballhog/hero-ball shit. His offensive excellence is developing into an indisputable fact of his game.