The Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Boston Celtics in TD Garden in a primetime showdown on Friday night. The results did not favor the Wolves, however, sending them to their second straight loss.
The Celtics defeated the Timberwolves by a score of 91-84 in the style of game that the Celtics have become notorious for so far this season.
Boston has mastered the art of grinding teams down with high pressure, yet incredibly disciplined defense that makes opposing offenses work rigorously to score. They then depend on their offensive savant Kyrie Irving to guide their team of mostly average offensive players to victory in the final frame.
The game began sluggishly for both teams. Through the first six minutes of the first frame, the Timberwolves had scored just four points. The entire quarter was uneventful and slow-paced, save for this Jayson Tatum explosion over Karl-Anthony Towns.
The first quarter ended with both teams gridlocked at 19.
The second frame was more of the same, as both teams appeared to be playing in quick sand throughout the beginning of the quarter. There was a fair share of slow offense which was caused by mostly stingy and crisp defense from both sides. The Celtics were cold from outside the arc, and the Timberwolves could not get anything to drop from really anywhere on the court.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the only true bright spot for the Timberwolves on offense as he finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds at the half. Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler combined to score just seven points on 2-13 shooting over the first two quarters. To be honest, the score should have been much worse for the Wolves as the Celtics couldn’t find a rhythm on mostly open shots from behind the arc. Boston took a 41-38 lead into the break.
Things sped up slightly in the third quarter for both sides. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, Tyus Jones couldn’t stay out of foul trouble (he picked up his third foul on an abysmal phantom call on Kyrie Irving at the very end of the first half) and picked up his fourth early on after halftime. This led to Thibs bringing in Aaron Brooks and creating panic attacks across the state of Minnesota.
Amazingly, Brooks held his own in the 15 minutes he was given tonight, playingg with effort (sometimes too much effort) on both sides of the ball and scoring four points and two assists, all while logging plus-mins of +2 for the evening. It’s roof that miracles do in fact happen.
The Timberwolves started off the quarter very well and even took a seven-point lead midway through the third before Boston finally started connecting on some of their 3-point attempts and regaining the advantage heading into the final stanza. The Celtics led 65-62 after three quarters.
In the fourth, the Celtics finally found their stride and started connecting on even more of the open 3-point looks that they couldn’t seem to hit for the first two-thirds of the game. An assortment of offensive rebounds (Boston ended with 17 offensive boards), poor free throw shooting by the Timberwolves and an overall increase in intensity by the home team opened the lead up to double digits.
A late Tyus Jones 3-point heave pulled the Timberwolves to within seven, leaving the final score at an unfortunate, but somewhat predictable, score of 91-84.
Tweets of the Night
Player of the Game
Karl-Anthony Towns: 25 points (9-16 FG, 1-4 3P, 6-6 FT), 23 rebounds, 2 blocks, one assist, zero turnovers
Don’t let the final score allow you to overlook how awesome KAT was throughout this game. He finished with an eye-popping line of 25 points and 23 rebounds and was extremely active throughout the entire contest. In a game consisting of plenty of stars, it would be hard to find somebody that argues that, at least in this game, Towns wasn’t the best player on the floor.
Perhaps most encouragingly, his enhanced play on the defensive end of the court appears to be sustainable. On the ESPN broadcast, color commentator Jeff Van Gundy mentioned on numerous occasions how Towns was rotating much more attentively and showed an increased awareness that hasn’t been consistently apparent over his young career (it should be noted that Van Gundy seems to regurgitate information that Thibs, a longtime friend, issues him before the game – which is insightful for people who want to have a peak behind the curtain as to Thibs true thoughts).
Even though the Wolves came out with the loss, this development is much more important in the grand context of the Minnesota organization. If Towns can continue this trend, the Timberwolves can go from a highly talented, yet non-scary opponent for top teams, into a squad that has a chance to beat almost anybody in a seven game series.
- Boston is an unpleasantly fun team to watch. They grind teams down to a nub and are constantly pressuring the ball handler, hounding passing lanes, and contesting shots with energy and technique. They do this with a roster that employs several players not known for their defensive prowess and young guys on the wing. On paper, the Timberwolves roster should be able to reach almost the same level if they buy in to what Thibs is teaching them – which is equal parts hope-inducing and frustrating.
- Jimmy Butler hasn’t seemed overly confident in his shot from the field over the last two games. He was 0-of-3 from behind the arc tonight and 3-of-12 overall. The Wolves need Butler at his best to win games on the road, especially against good opponents.
- The same can be said for Andrew Wiggins, whose line was eerily similar to Butler’s. Wiggins was also 3-of-12 from the field and finished with just 10 points.
- Jamal Crawford broke out of his 3-point slump tonight, connecting on 4-of-5 of his attempts and providing a small spark off the bench. He continues to take shots that force fans to bang their heads against the wall.
- Nemanja Bjelica continued to struggle, but at least he was showing signs of being more engaged in trying for rebounds and taking some shots. Hopefully this can spark the early-season Bjelly that was so effective for the Wolves bench unit.
Notable Box Score Lines
- Jimmy Butler: 14 points (3-12 FG, 0-3 3P, 8-10 FT), 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers
- Andrew Wiggins: 10 points (3-12 FG, 1-4 3P, 3-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, one steal, one assist, 2 turnovers
- Jamal Crawford: 13 points (4-8 FG, 4-5 3P, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, one block, 3 turnovers
The Timberwolves will fly home to take on the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night on the second night of a back-to-back. It will be a very difficult game for Minnesota to win as Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins always seem to be at their very best when facing Kentucky counterpart Karl-Anthony Towns.
It will be a good test to see if Towns play can continue against stiff competition. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports North as the Wolves try and stop this short two-game losing skid.