Playing in Boston on the second night of a back-to-back appeared to be a game that could be chalked up as a loss as soon as the schedule was released. And while that ended up being the case, the Timberwolves played two and a half quarters of very, very good basketball. After that, well….it became apparent that this was the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
After Kevin Garnett scored over Kevin Love on the Celtics’ first possession of the game, Rick Adelman elected to have Nikola Pekovic guard Garnett. Clearly, Pekovic wouldn’t be able to get out and contest all of Garnett’s mid-range jumpers, but the Wolves were obviously trying to protect Love from early foul trouble. Garnett started red-hot against his former team, making his first five shots en route to a final line of 18 points (8-13 shooting), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Love did leave the game with his second foul with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Wolves weathered the early Kevin Garnett-led storm, and escaped the first quarter with a 30-27 lead. Josh Howard continued his solid play from the previous night in Philadelphia, although his shot selection tended to be a little deep-two-pointer heavy. The Wolves were not getting the shooters’ rolls like they did against the 76ers, and it eventually caught up with them against the Celtics.
The Wolves’ second unit started the second quarter without any real rhythm or offensive purpose, but managed to fair well against the majority of the Celtics’ starting lineup due to their irrational confidence. Alexey Shved continued his impressive play off the bench, despite being constantly manhandled by the Celtics. Shved continues to receive no respect whatsoever from the officials, and opposing teams clearly understand that they can have their way while guarding with Shved with no consequences.
Derrick Williams’ was essentially invisible during his limited first half minutes, and for some reason the Celtics failed to give Garnett the ball while Williams was guarding him. The Wolves’ starting lineup re-entered the game, and the Wolves managed to head into halftime with a 51-47 lead.
The Celtics started the second quarter as the aggressor, and significantly more physical than the Wolves. Boston was hedging every single screen nearly to halfcourt, and the Celtics’ guards were riding Ridnour, Barea, Shved the whole way up the court. Because of the passiveness of the Wolves, the referees absolutely refused to give them the benefit of the doubt on any calls. Love continued to struggle mightily from the field, with his jumper remaining flat. His free throw shooting, along with the rest of the team, was horrendous.
Somewhere in the middle of the third quarter, the Timberwolves completely stopped throwing the ball into the post in the early offense. Pekovic, who had been somewhat effective early on, was not involved at all, and when the Wolves’ second unit came into the game, the post game was predictably non-existent. Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham are not exactly a pair of low-post scoring power houses, and the Wolves relied too much on J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, and Josh Howard to create offense in the half court.
The visitors failed to close the game to within single digits in the last ten minutes of the game, and the Celtics simply outworked the weary Wolves. The fourth quarter was never really contested by Minnesota, and the Celtics waltzed to a relatively easy win once the Wolves tired out considerably, winning by a final score of 104-94.
- Free. Throw. Shooting. Wow. The Timberwolves shot just 14 of 30 from the charity stripe. That’s 46.7%. That’s also really, really, really bad. The main culprit was Kevin Love, who shot just 6 of 12 from the line. He is an 82% career free throw shooter, and he is shooting just 50 of 77 so far this season, or 64.9%. The normally reliable Barea and Shved combined to shoot just 3 of 8 from the line as well, including some key misses when the outcome of the game hung in the balance in the second half.
- Pekovic had one of his most efficient games so far this year, shooting 6 of 13 from the field and 2 of 2 from the free throw line, for a final line of 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. He also did a fairly good job against Garnett on the defensive end, contesting the mid-range jump shots as best he could and playing physically down low and on the boards.
- Considering that the Wolves played just last night in Philadelphia and the Celtics had three days off in a row, this game ended about how we may all have expected it to end. Unfortunately, with as good as the Wolves played in the first half, this was a game that turned out to be very winnable. The atrocious free throw shooting, along with the Celtics superior stamina and hustle advantage in the second half, eventually doomed the Wolves.
- The Wolves will host the Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.