Watch It! – Timberwolves at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Second-Unit Surge

The first meeting between these two teams, back on Nov. 21 in Minnesota, was a great one. Boston pulled out the 99-93 win, but it needed a heck of a fourth-quarter performance in order to do so.

Boston trailed by 13 points after the first three quarters of play but blitzed the T’Wolves with its bench at the start of the fourth. The fivesome of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko and Al Horford started the final period and ignited a 17-0 run by the C’s that turned a substantial deficit into a four-point lead. Minnesota didn’t score a basket until more than halfway through the fourth period.

It’s highly unlikely that the C’s bench will spark another 17-0 run, but Brad Stevens and his players have visual evidence that their second unit is capable of dominating the Wolves.

How Bout Them T’Wolves?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are 10 games below the .500 mark heading into tonight’s matchup at the Garden. Viewing them as a below-.500 team, however, would be a mistake.

Minnesota is coming of age before our very eyes. The Timberwolves have won seven of their last 10 games and three of their last four. Their last three victories were all logged against teams with 40 or more wins on the season (Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Washington), a group the Celtics currently find themselves in.

Prior to this season beginning, many expected Minnesota to compete for a playoff spot. They’re now doing so by playing the level of basketball those same pundits have expected from them for months.

Building Blocks

Sunday afternoon’s victory over the visiting Chicago Bulls was a giant step forward for the Boston Celtics. Not only did they grab a win, but they did so in dominant fashion with a memorable defensive performance.

The hope is that Sunday’s victory was the first building block for Boston in its attempt to become better and better over the final month of the season. The victory was followed up by a rare practice Monday afternoon and an off day Tuesday, which surely could stand as building blocks of their own.

Seeing as Boston hasn’t exactly been running on all cylinders of late, having dropped six of its last 11 games, it needed a stretch like this. This could be the stretch that pushes them in a positive direction as the Playoffs approach.

Welcome to Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns has been a heck of a player since he entered the league last season. His play of late has been even better than normal.

Towns has scored 21 or more points during every Timberwolves game since Jan. 25. That’s 21 consecutive games. He has scored at least 35 points during each of his last two contests, all while shooting a ridiculous 66 percent from the field and grabbing 13.5 rebounds per game.

The Celtics are well aware that their hands will be full tonight in their attempt to slow Towns down, especially seeing as he dropped 27 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks on the C’s earlier this season. Horford, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, among others, better bring their hard hats to the defensive end of the floor.

C’s Facing Playoff-Type Defense

There has been much talk this season about how opposing teams are going to load up on Isaiah Thomas during the playoffs and make other C’s beat them. We might already be seeing that tactic as we enter the final month of the season.

Thomas has taken no more than 14 shots during each of his last two games and three of his last six games overall, albeit he only played 24 minutes during one of those contests. This isn’t by choice for Thomas; it’s instead associated with taking what the defense is giving him.

Boston will need other players to step up at the offensive end of the court tonight if Minnesota employs a similar style of defense. Some of the top candidates to aid Thomas in the scoring column are Avery Bradley, Horford, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk.

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