3/15 Game Preview: Timberwolves at Celtics
BOSTON -- Earlier this season, Isaiah Thomas scored at least 20 points in 43 straight games, breaking John Havlicek's 45-year-old Boston Celtics record.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the young big man hoping to advance the growth of the Minnesota Timberwolves, scored at least 20 in the last 21 contests, the second-longest streak in the league this season. He is also the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week.
Wednesday night, the Celtics and Wolves meet at TD Garden, where Boston won the last 10 meetings. The Timberwolves, who made it through a snowstorm to get to Boston, did the Celtics a favor Monday night. They beat the Washington Wizards, the team Boston is battling for second place in the East.
The Washington loss moved the Celtics a half-game ahead of the Wizards -- and Boston is 2 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot.
The Celtics returned from a 2-3 road trip that included a win at Golden State but also losses at Phoenix, and Denver and shook off some fatigue to put away the fading Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.
"Very important. We needed that," said Thomas, who scored 22 points in the win. "We need to get back to playing the way we know how, playing more consistent and just everybody doing their jobs. I think if we do that we put ourselves in the best position possible."
Thomas scored at least 20 points in all but three games and has yet to score fewer than 18 this season. He averaged 27 points over the last five games, lowering his season scoring average to 29.2, to go with 6.0 assists.
Speaking of assists, Ricky Rubio set a Timberwolves record with 19 in Monday night's victory -- 10 of them in the first quarter, matching an NBA season high for assists in a quarter.
"Some nights you see things a little different and things get easier," Rubio said after his 22-point, 19-assist game. "Tonight, in the first quarter I really saw different things out there and I was trying to set the tempo from the beginning in being aggressive."
It was his 17th double-double of the season and he has two straight 20-point games for the first time in four years.
Over the last nine games, Rubio averaged 14.9 points, 11.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds. The Timberwolves, 10 games under .500, are 6-3 over that span, including a home win over the Warriors.
Minnesota won three of its last four and eight of its last 12, and is 3 1/2 games out of the final West playoff spot.
"We are playing great basketball against great teams right now," Rubio said. "We aren't just competing, we're winning games. That's what this team was supposed to do. It's a great feeling when you go out there and you know you can beat anybody."
The teams split the two-game season series in each of the last two seasons, with each winning their home game. The Celtics beat the Timberwolves 99-93 in Minnesota on Nov. 21.
"With (15) games left we got to play our best basketball because Washington is playing really well right now, Cleveland is not going to play like they have been for the most part so we just got to control our own destiny," Thomas said. "Control what we can control that's why we got to bring it every night. Luckily we got home games to we got to protect home court and go from there."
The Celtics, fully healthy for the first time in a long time with Avery Bradley free of minutes limits, visit the Brooklyn Nets -- the team that could provide them with the top pick in the next draft -- Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday.
A six-game homestand follows as Boston plays nine of its last 12 at home. The Celtics are 22-9 and have won nine of their last 10 at TD Garden.