Ford Keys to the Game: Timberwolves 93, Celtics 96
Timberwolves 93, Celtics 96
Close games mean decisive moments. Tonight’s 96-93 triumph for the Boston Celtics over the Minnesota Timberwolves did not lack such instances.
When the C’s came out of the gates and took a 3-0 lead on the back of Ray Allen’s game-opening 3-pointer, no one thought it’d match the largest lead the team would see all night. Surely no one thought that Boston wouldn’t match that lead again until the waning minutes of the game, but that was certainly the case.
Boston played from behind for the entire game, but a 12-4 run that begin with Paul Pierce’s 3-pointer at the 3:34 mark of the fourth quarter helped the C’s get back into the game down the stretch. Rajon Rondo’s teardrop floater in the lane gave the Celtics a 90-89 lead with 1:35 remaining and Glen Davis’ two free throws 22 seconds later pushed the lead up to 92-89.
That three-point cushion matched the Celtics’ largest lead of the game. The only other time Boston led by three was when Allen hit the game’s aforemtioned first basket.
The Celtics’ second three-point lead was never relinquished, but the Timberwolves didn’t go down without a fight. Michael Beasley, who scored Minnesota’s final eight points of the game, hit a jumper with 44 seconds remaining to cut Boston’s lead to one. A missed jumper from Rajon Rondo followed up Beasley’s make and that left the Timberwolves with an opportunity to win the game on the final play.
Kurt Rambis called a 20-second timeout, Minnesota’s final timeout of the game, and drew up an inbound play that was intended to take home the victory. But when Rajon Rondo’s fantastic ball denial took away the first inbound option, which was intended to be Luke Ridnour, the Timberwolves were put into a scramble. Players began darting toward the ball to prevent a five-second violation, but in the midst of that chaos, Beasley, who was the inbounder, found Ridnour streaking down the middle of the lane in front of Rondo. Beasley tossed a perfect pass to Ridnour and it looked like Minnesota’s point guard was going to put home a wide-open layup and give his team a one-point advantage with just a few seconds left in the game. Too bad that wide-open layup wasn’t as simple as it originally appeared.
Ridnour wound up catching the pass from Beasley in an awkward position. There was no one between him and the basket, but he caught the ball at a distance in which he was darned if he did dribble and darned if he didn’t. If he did, he would have slowed himself down and allowed Rondo and the rest of the Celtics to gain ground on him and defend his shot. If he didn’t, he would be put in the awkward position of attempting a layup from a non-layup distance.
While the Garden crowd sighed a collective gasp of, “Oh, no…,” as Ridnour caught the pass, he elected to not take that dribble. Luckily for the C’s, that forced him to make up for that awkward distance by taking an extra step. That resulted in a traveling violation which gave the ball back to Boston with 9.5 seconds remaining. Nate Robinson hit two free throws with 4.6 seconds left in the game, and Beasley’s buzzer-beating 3-point attempt to tie the game was awry, leaving the C’s with a closer-than-expected win.
Key Box Score Line
Some games hold player box scores that don’t look so glamorous, but they mean so much. Despite the limited numbers from Von Wafer tonight, his performance off the bench was quite possibly the most integral part of Boston’s win.
Wafer came off the bench to play the second-most minutes of his season, with 16, and made a dramatic impact on that game for the duration of the time. He led the Celtics in rebounding for nearly the entire game and finished with six boards, which tied Paul Pierce for the team-high. He also scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and finished with the game's best plus/minus rating, at plus-16. That means the Celtics outscored the Timberwolves by one point for every minute he was on the floor.
In addition to the raw numbers, it was his energy that played such a large role. His lone steal of the night resulted in a fast break and-one play that sparked the Garden crowd and he made numerous other hustle plays that left a mark on the game. Without his performance, Minnesota’s lead, which reached double-digits in the second half, would have been insurmountable. Wafer provided his top performance of the season when his team needed it most. Thanks to him, the C’s are celebrating a win instead of a devastating loss.
Box Score Nuggets
- Paul Pierce led the game with 23 points and tied for the team-high with six rebounds.
- Rajon Rondo's 16 assists matched the output of the entire Timberwolves team.
- Boston was outrebounded 45-30.
- Outside of Rondo, Pierce was the only other Celtic who dished out more than one assist. He had three dimes.
- Pierce and Ray Allen each shot 8-of-16 from the floor.
- Michael Beasley led the Timberwolves in scoring with 19 points.
- Kevin Love recorded the season-high for rebounds by an opposing player against the C's with 24. He had 10 in the first quarter alone.
- Minnesota shot only 41.7 percent from the floor.
- The teams shot nearly exactly the same from downtown. Boston shot 5-of-16 and Minnesota shot 5-of-17.
- Jermaine O'Neal had a game-high four blocked shots off the bench.
- The Timberwolves scored only 26 points in the paint.
- Shaquille O'Neal played a season-high 30 minutes.
- Von Wafer scored 10 points and tied for the team-high with six rebounds off the bench.
- Allen scored 20 points and made four of his five 3-point attempts.
- Boston had two players score at least 20 points while Minnesota had none.
- Glen Davis scored 17 points but had only one rebound. He had 11 rebounds last night in Toronto.
- Wafer had by far the highest plus/minus rating of the game at plus-16. The next-highest was Minnesota's Wesley Johnson at plus-nine.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Von Wafer's defensive intensity: "I think he’s – it’s funny to watch him - he gets excited about defensive stops now. And that’s great. Because I get excited about that as well."