GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Celtics - April 1, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: Very nice win for the Wolves, who end an 11-game winless streak against the Celtics with a 110-100 win tonight. The last time the Wolves beat Boston was Feb. 11, 2007, when Kevin Garnett was on the team. Another sizable losing streak that this franchise has ended over the last two seasons. Say what you will about Boston missing its stars tonight, but the Wolves need to be able to take advantage of those situations and they did just that tonight. Pek finished with a game-high 29 points, while Andrei Kirilenko had 17 points and nine boards, Dante Cunningham had 19 points and five boards, and J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams each had 11. For the Celtics, Avery Bradley had 19. The win puts Rick Adelman two wins shy of 1,000. More news, notes and interviews to come so stay right here at MIN 110, BOS 100

Q4 3:36: These last four minutes of the fourth quarter have belonged to J.J. Barea, who is using some aggressive and shifty moves to get to the oop and score. He has five points this quarter and is 5-of-9 from the field overall with 11 points. He also has six assists and four boards tonight. Minnesota continues to attack the paint and now has a 58-34 lead in the paint tonight. MIN 104, BOS 91

Q4 7:45: The Wolves made good on that turn in momentum. All of a sudden it's a 14-point lead since that Celtics turnover, and Minnesota is now up 96-82 with 7:45 to play. The current 7-0 run since that turnover was just capped by a 3-pointer from Alexey Shved on the wing. Nice shooting and nice aggressiveness from Dante Cunningham, who has the other four points in that run. MIN 96, BOS 82

Q4 8:51: Inopportune turnover for Jason Terry moments ago. He threw the ball right to Derrick Williams, who sent an outlet pass to Dante Cunningham. DC picked up the foul from Lee and will head to the line after the timeout. The C's could have cut the lead to four or five conceivably on that possession, but the foul could turn this into a nine-point game. MIN 89, BOS 82

End Q3: Boston made a comeback at the end of the half, pulling to within six as we head into the fourth. Avery Bradley leads the way with 17, while Bass and Terry each have 11 and Williams has 10. For the Wolves, Pek leads the way with 25 points, AK has 17 and Ricky has nine. Minnesota needs to continue attacking the paint. They lead in that area 46-30, and they also have a 16-5 fastbreak advantage. Those two areas can be key in the fourth. MIN 84, BOS 78

Q3 2:46: More Pek from the Wolves as Minnesota opened up a lead as big as 14 at one point this quarter. The Celtics have brought it back down to nine, but Minnesota continues to fight thanks to big play from Pek and Andrei Kirilenko. Pek has 25 points, just six shy of his career-high, and is 11-of-11 from the line. Meanwhile Kirilenko has 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go along with eight boards. Nice night for those two in the Wolves' front court. MIN 80, BOS 71

Halftime: The Wolves have a 10-2 fastbreak advantage capped off by a nice layup by Alexey Shved moments ago, and they also have a 32-18 advantage in the paint. Pek continues to shine despite drawing an awful lot of help defense. He's got 21 points at the half to go with three boards. Kirilenko is leading the team on the glass with seven, while Ricky has seven points and five assists. Both teams are shooting well tonight--Minnesota at 51.2 percent and Boston at 53.8 percent. For the Celtics, Avery Bradley is heating up. He's got 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. MIN 57, BOS 52

Q2 5:31: What a play by the Timberwolves in transition turning defense into offense. Andrei Kirilenko deflected a Celtics' pass right to J.J. Barea, who found AK with an outlet pass. Kirilenko unleashed a pretty touch pass to Shved, who scored with a layup. Very pretty, and that's the type of defense the Wolves need to use tonight if Boston gets tired. Meanwhile, a Chase Budinger 3-pointer was ruled after the shot clock expired and was overturned. Minnesota leads by three midway through the second. MIN 41, BOS 38

End Q1: Pekovic is just doing work tonight for the Wolves. He's got 15 points for the Wolves on 5-of-6 shooting, and he's getting the line effectively. He's 5-of-5 from the stripe and has picked up two fouls on Wilcox and three more on the backup Randolph. Nice start for Pek inside, and the Wolves really need to continue to go through him down low. But Minnesota is only up two, and they need to tighten up that defense while putting the C's to work. Boston is depleted and coming off back to back games. Minnesota needs to start creating separation. MIN 27, BOS 25

Q1 4:58: Minnesota is currently on a 6-0 run and has started taking over the pace of the game. Rubio has three straight assists, and he's finding Derrick Williams for deceptive passes that lead to massive dunks as well as Pekovic in the lane leading to some nice finesse moves from the big guy. Pek is 4-of-5 with nine points, while Rubio himself has four points. Bradley has six for Boston. MIN 17, BOS 13

PF-Avery Bradley, SG-Courtney Lee, SF-Jeff Green, PF-Brandon Bass, C-Chris Wilcox

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:55 PM: Wolves coach Rick Adelman said pregame that Pekovic missing Saturday's game was essentially due to stiffness in his ankle that couldn't get worked out during his pregame warm ups, but after a day off he's feeling ready to go. Pek has missed time with different injuries this season, mostly lower-body, and Adelman said one thing he might need to do is learn a little bit more of a finesse game that takes some of those taxing blows away from time to time.

"Rather than banging all the time, I feel like he can mix things up a little bit," Adelman said. "Some of his injuries, the thing with the stomach, the ankle, we just have to figure out what type of tendency the guys have and if we can do things that will help them."

Adelman said part of the issue is he plays so hard, he will get these types of issues from time to time.

"But I don't have a concern about it," Adelman said. "He keeps himself in good shape. He works really hard. He should be OK."

On the other hand, the Celtics are about as banged up as they've been during the Kevin Garnett era. Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked the last time he didn't have his top three players in the lineup together—whether it was KG-Pierce-Allen or KG-Pierce-Rondo—was probably prior to the original "Big 3" coming together in 2007. He acknowledged there have been times he's sat them for rest, but this time it is three injuries keeping them out.

He said he's simply trying to figure out a way to win tonight's game, and the way to do it is probably not getting into a high-scoring affair.

"We have a lot of points out of our offense when you combine Rondo's, Kevin's and Paul's," he said. "So we clearly aren't going to beat them 120 to something. We have to try and control the game."

Rivers said the one positive in this situation is trying to sort out his postseason rotation, which he has not set just yet. He is looking to get his eight or nine man rotation lined up before the playoffs, and he hopes to have everyone back healthy in advance of the postseason to get back in sync.

"This is the only positive to it," Rivers said.

Pregame 5:30 PM: A quick update before tonight's pregame coaches availability: Pek is scheduled to play tonight after missing Saturday's game against Memphis with a sprained left ankle. That's big news for the Wolves, as Pekovic could make a pretty sizable impact against this Celtics squad dealing with injuries woes of their own. Will update with more info when it becomes available.

Pregame 3:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center and the final game of this four-game homestand as the Wolves host the Boston Celtics tonight at 7 PM on My29 and 830 WCCO-AM. The Celtics enter the game having dealt with their own string of injuries that are really coming to the forefront tonight, as Boston will be missing the entire core of their team. Obviously Rajon Rondo suffered an ACL injury prior to the All-Star Break, while Kevin Garnett has missed the last five games with a left ankle injury and Paul Pierce is likely out tonight after turning his right ankle against New York on Sunday night.

The Celtics are currently 2 ½ games behind the Hawks in the East for that sixth spot, which right now is the difference between playing either the Knicks (eight-game winning streak) and the Pacers (four-game winning streak). Boston is, however, essentially a lock for the playoffs as they hold an eight-game lead over the Sixers in ninth place with just nine games to play.

Right now their biggest goal is to get healthy and put together some momentum on the road. Boston is 25-11 at home but just 13-24 away from TD Garden, so picking up wins in games like tonight can help get the team prepped for life on the road beginning with their first round matchup in the postseason—wherever that might be.

Not that the Celtics aren’t tested. Even with a turned over roster this year, they still have Pierce and KG. Those two, along with coach Doc Rivers, are enough to worry about if you’re matching up with Boston in the postseason—even if the Celtics aren’t exactly title favorites this time around.

For the Wolves, this is an opportunity to face a team without its major stars and see if they can keep Boston struggling on the road. Minnesota is coming off that 99-86 loss to Memphis on Saturday, but they are a much stronger team at Target Center and proved it with a 101-93 win over the Thunder on Friday.

Two keys to watch tonight: First, will center Nikola Pekovic play? He’s missed last game with a sprained left ankle, and his presence down low would make a huge difference tonight against a projected starter like Chris Wilcox. Second, how will Ricky Rubio follow up his gem performance of 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on Saturday? He led both teams in all three categories, and his fiery intensity is part of what fuels this Wolves club.

More to come from Target Center today. Here is a look at tonight’s pregame notes:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 16-29, and are 8-14 at home. Boston has won the last 11 meetings between the two teams and the last five at Target Center.

  • The Celtics won the first meeting this season, 104-94, at TD Garden on Dec. 5. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kevin Love had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Wolves.

  • Rick Adelman is three wins shy of reaching 1,000 NBA coaching wins -- a plateau previously reached by only seven coaches.

  • The Wolves have scored 100+ points in four of the last six games (3-3 record), averaging 103.8 ppg over this stretch.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 15.0 points, on 44.0% (59-for-134) shooting, 5.6 rebounds and 7.8 assists over the last 12 games. He needs three steals tonight to qualify to be among the league leaders in that category. He currently would be ranked 3rd in the NBA with 2.30 steals per game if he qualified.

  • Rubio needs 12 assists tonight to qualify to be among the league leaders in that category. He currently would be ranked 8th in the NBA with 7.3 assists if he qualified.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 19.7 points, on 57.5% (23-for-40) shooting, and 14.0 rebounds over his last three games. He has recorded 25 double-doubles this season (four in his last six games) to rank 21st in the NBA. He also ranks 12th in the league with 214 offensive rebounds and 25th in field goal percentage ay 51.7%.

  • Pekovic has grabbed an offensive rebound in the last 68 games he's played -- the 2nd longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love, 75).

  • The Wolves have had fewer turnovers than their opponent in 17 of the last 21 games (one tie). Minnesota has a +2.8 turnover-per-game advantage (14.3-17.1) during that span.

  • Boston is in 7th place in the eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee and 2.5 games behind Atlanta. The Celtics are 13-24 on the road, including a 2-12 record vs. the West.

  • Boston has lost six of its last eight games overall and six of its last seven on the road. The team is 2-4 in the 2nd game of back-to-back road games,

  • The Celtics rank 7th in the NBA in field goal percentage (.461) and free throw percentage (.778). Defensively, Boston ranks 6th in opponent field goal percentage (.440) and 3rd in three-point field goal percentage (.338).

  • Paul Pierce is averaging 21.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 7.7 assist over the last three games, with two double-doubles and a triple-double in that span.

  • Jeff Green is averaging 23.5 points, on 51.5 % (34-for-66) shooting, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists over the last four games.

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