Wolves Push Past Celtics, 104-89

Three-Point Shooting Pushes Wolves Past Celtics, 104-89

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The focus this week at practice was chemistry—getting the starting five on the court together for more minutes and beginning to form a bond together on the court that will lead this team where it wants to go come April.

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Wolves vs. Celtics

They had seven days to prepare. Turns out they made good on their practice time.

The Wolves rolled past the Boston Celtics 104-89 on Sunday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal as part of the 2013 NBA Canada Series. Minnesota looked focused from the start offensively, particularly from 3-point range, and pulled away late in their first game action since last Saturday.

Minnesota shot 10-of-25 from beyond the arc, including 5-of-11 in the first quarter, and that set the tone. Kevin Martin was the catalyst, hitting 5-of-8 on the night and leading the way with his scorer’s touch. That’s the reason the Wolves brought Martin to Minnesota this offseason, and on this night he came through with a strong performance from distance.

“We’ve been waiting for a really solid wing scorer like Kevin,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said. “He’s a 20-point a night guy who showed throughout this preseason what he can do.”

This was essentially the first true test for this core group of Martin, Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic getting regular minutes on the court. The Wolves used them in limited minutes in their first preseason contest against CSKA Moscow, then Martin got hurt in the second game at Toronto. He missed the next two games with a sore right Achilles tendon, and as a result the Wolves needed to use this full week off to work together and log minutes on the floor.

By Sunday, the offense was starting to look like what coach Rick Adelman envisioned heading into Training Camp. Minnesota certainly played the part, starting with the Kevins. Love had 22 points, while Martin added 21.

“We were better today,” Adelman said. “And we’ve got to keep building on that. We understand that you’ve got to keep the effort up all 24 seconds defensively and then be sure to get good shots.”

Minnesota withstood Boston runs during the first and second quarters before pulling away in the second half. Early on, the Wolves built their lead to as many as 11 in the first quarter before an 11-3 Celtics run cut the lead down to 21-20 with three minutes left in the first. In the second, the Wolves again extended the lead to as many as nine on three different occasions, only to watch the Celtics cut it back down to one with 10:15 left in the third.

But a 3-pointer by Rubio started the wheels in motion again. He hit two on the night, and his connection early in the third put the Wolves on a run that swelled the lead back up to seven just three minutes later. By the end of the quarter, the lead was nine. In the fourth, they doubled it and then some. Their biggest lead was 22.

Minnesota entered tonight with one additional goal in mind: The Wolves wanted to see how the team’s first and second units played with either Derrick Williams or Corey Brewer at small forward. Williams got the start on Sunday night, and he ended up playing 23 minutes at the 3. Brewer added 21 off the bench, and both mixed and matched which unit they played with.

With Rubio, Martin, Love and Pekovic all contributing offensively, Williams was able to focus primarily on rebounding (he had seven), and Brewer was able to focus on his defense and trying to get out in transition.

Meanwhile, Love and Martin led the way and Rubio added an extra spark. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, hit 2-of-3 shots from 3-point range and added seven assists. Rubio also was able to get to the basket on a couple occasions, another facet of his game that will bode well for the Wolves. If he can keep defenses honest by hitting those jumpers and finishing at the rim, it will open up even more opportunities for his teammates.

That was part of the equation in Montreal.

“We just think the last week of practice did a lot for us,” Love said. “We all have a good confidence, a good confidence in each other. But just fine-tuning things and just getting out there and being together more on the floor for practice really helped us.”

Pekovic finished with 12 points and seven boards on the night, while J.J. Barea had nine points off the bench in 13 minutes. Brewer had seven points, Alexey Shved had six and both Williams and Dante Cunningham had five.

For the Celtics, Gerald Wallace had 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 12 points, Avery Bradley had 11 and Brandon Bass had 10. Minneapolis North alum Kammron Taylor finished with two points in 2:51 of playing time.

Leader of the Pack: Kevin Love

Wolves forward Kevin Love led the way tonight from the start, hitting early 3s, crashing the boards, getting creative in the way he scored the basketball and feeding off his other teammates on the offensive end. Love’s shot looked on tonight from distance, but perhaps his best shot of the evening came early on in the first half when he got the ball on the baseline and hit a soft turnaround jumper. He finished with 22 points and nine boards on the night.

Highlight of the Night

At the 6:23 mark of the third quarter, Ricky Rubio drove and found a cutting Derrick Williams at the basket. Williams received the pass and scored with a nice reverse jam. It was one of Rubio’s seven assists on the night, and it was the flashiest of Williams’ five points on the evening.

The Numbers Game

  • Minnesota had a distinct advantage on the glass, holding a 54-40 edge over the Celtics. The Wolves also had eight blocked shots on the night—including two each from Pekovic and Brewer.

  • The Timberwolves had 20 assists on 34 field goals, including nine assists on 10 field goals in the first quarter.

  • The Wolves began the night shooting 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

  • Tonight’s announced attendance at Bell Centre was 20,152. The crowd arrived early and stayed through the duration of the game. It’s a hockey town and an arena full of Canadiens tradition, but on this night the crowd was completely engage in NBA action.

  • The Wolves shot 10-of-25 from 3-point range, including five from Kevin Martin and two apiece from Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The Celtics shot 3-of-26 from behind the arc, including 0-for-14 in the second half.

  • The Wolves’ starters shot 18-of-21 from the free-throw line on Sunday night.

  • Boston’s largest lead was one—Gerald Wallace’s layup at the 10:12 mark of the first quarter put the Celtics up 7-6. Minnesota took the lead right back on the next possession thanks to a Martin runner and never looked back. The Wolves led by as many as 22 on Sunday night.

  • Quote of the Night

    “Yeah, I’m getting old—23 [years old].” — Wolves guard Ricky Rubio, who will turn 23 about the time the Wolves land in Minneapolis tonight.

    Next Up

    The Timberwolves will head home tonight for two days before heading out for their final two games of the preseason—back-to-backs in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Detroit on Thursday. The final game of the preseason against the Pistons will be broadcast on 830 WCCO-AM.

    For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com