Live Game Blog vs Celtics
We'll be blogging live throughout Minnesota's venture to Boston to face Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. Our resident KG expert (and L.A. Correspondent) is in town to help us through it.
Check back at tipoff (6:30 p.m.) if you'd like to follow along.
A few links for you:
Scouting report with Celtics.com
Free KG tickets
The thing we should be most worried about tonight is that Minnesota's played four consecutive games against three of the NBA's worst defensive teams. The offense has been terrific, thanks to the new lineup that's again starting tonight (Telfair, Jaric, McCants, Gomes, Jefferson), but Boston's should be expected to come out in a defensive frenzy. Minnesota's new lineup has helped the Wolves score, but will they be able to get the ball in to Jefferson in the same spots with Boston focusing most of their efforts on Big Al?
Plus, the Celtics have been fierce the game after losses this year (Boston lost to Toronto on Wednesday) and, of course, KG will be foaming at the mouth.
"Kevin's really an emotional guy," said assistant coach Jerry Sichting on the "PA and Dubay" Show* this morning. "Sometimes it works to his benefit, sometimes to his detriment. It depends on how wound up he gets. I think he'll be OK. I think it won't be as emotional for him because as he said, most of the (Wolves) weren't (in Minnesota) last year."
*Definitely the best local radio show you can find. What up PA?
Great point from Sichting there. He went on to talk about the fact that Al Jefferson is also a very emotional player, and whichever guy better controls his emotions will "probably have the better game."
Sichting also talked about what Boston likes to do with Garnett, and how they'll guard Jefferson:
"Kevin gets early touches in transition, lots of pick and pops. They will post him on the left block as the Timberwolves did for a number of years ... Other than that, he just kind of plays off the other guys. He defers to (Allen and Pierce) a lot at the offensive end. They like to put him on a weaker player at the defensively because he's a great roam and help out guy at the defensive end. I would imagine (Kendrick) Perkins will start out on Al Jefferson, and they're going to put Kevin on Gomes and try to get him to come over and help and double-team. Gomes is going to have to make some outside shots to make them pay.
Traffic Almost Prevents Game Blog
Seriously, should it take 45 minutes to travel four miles? Trying to get to the St. Louis Park house from which we'll be blogging tonight was ridiculous. It would have been faster to jog (not job ... oops), but the cold air entering my lungs would have resulted in death (also preventing this blog).
Former Wolf and Gopher John Thomas Joins the Blog
Excellent. I called Thomas today to see if he had time to join us for this blog, and we're lucky to say that he's on his way to St. Louis Park to lend his great basketball mind. Thomas played with KG and Mad Dog for the Wolves in the 2004-05 season, played with Antoine Walker in Boston in 1997-98, and against Paul Pierce and Ray Allen numerous times.
|Former Timberwolf and Gophers Final Four star John Thomas is joining us for this game blog. Dang, John, getting upset with the rim there much?|
Right now we're watching the KG video that Alex Browning shot while in Boston yesterday on KSTC, listening to Tom Hanneman and Jim Petersen on the preview show. Sikka's already arguing with John and myself about who's going to make the playoffs in the west while we wait for the start of the game.
We're watching KG go through his elaborate pregame ritual: "We'd all be on the bench - me, Hassell and Troy Hudson, and we'd all shrug our shoulder when he'd do it. Whatever he has to do to get ready to start the game, that's how he does it. He'd always find that corner at home, but I can't repeat what he'd yell."
Our first discussion was about how Boston's going to focus on Jefferson, with KG on the weak side.:
"Kevin is one of the best help defenders in the league," said Thomas. "He's a great communicator, so you always knew where you were at. Sometimes he'd know where your guy was when you didn't. Guys in the NBA just don't talk enough."
OK, game time. Boston's Perkins missed a shot down low, and Jefferson came down hitting a face-up 17-footer. On Minnesota's next possession, Garnett went down to help on Al, and Gomes knocked down an open jumper for a 4-0 Wolves lead. Sikka remembers that's what Sichting was talking about before the game.
- KG came back with an assist and a jumper to tie the score, and immediately started talking trash to Gomes. Thomas is guessing that he said, "Too little. KG always said that."
- As we expected, Boston's feeding KG early. "Of course," said Thomas. Yup.
- With 7:00 remaining in the first, Minnesota has an 15-10 lead. Jefferson has eight points, and Gomes five.
- "It really doesn't matter that their defense focused on him, because of the spacing of an NBA court. So when he gets isolated, they are aware of him, but Al is so good with his reverse pivot faceup shot, it sets up everything else for the rest of the game. Plus, he's long and tall enough, that when you try to contest a shot - since you have to - he's quick enough to go by you afterwards. And he feels your body and goes the other way. He's good."
- 17-15 Wolves after a McCants jumper. Robby just told me that Minnesota's shooting 70 percent from the field. That's aight.
- Random fun fact: In Toronto, Thomas' nickname was "The Big Kitchen," because he'd always be in the kitchenette right next to the video coordinator's room. "It got crazy, they'd write articles and say, 'Everything but the kitchen sink' when I'd score." Thomas preferred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mostly.
- Thomas and Sikka are talking about "Through the Fire" with my roommates, completely ignoring the game. Come on guys. Meanwhile, Telfair misses a three, but connects in the lane to put the Wolves up 20-19. He also has two steals and two dimes.
- KG's line before getting pulled: 8 points, four boards, one assist.
- Sikka was impressed with Jefferson and Telfair thus far. Bassy told me he was really excited to go against the Celtics, where he had his worst year in the NBA, and he's been good for five points, three assists and a board and two steals as the Wolves have a 30-27 lead. Thomas expected the Wolves to come out focused, and they sure have.
- After one quarter, Minnesota's up 30-29. The Wolves shot 62.5 percent from the field, had six assists to four turnovers, while Boston shot 50 percent with six assists and three turnovers.
- "Minnesota felt like they had something to prove, and the adrenaline has to be really high," said Thomas. "They were bound to come out hard. Typically, by the time the third quarter comes, each team settles in to who they are, and we'll see what happens."
- At the beginning of the second quarter, Boston started out hitting their first few hoops to take a 35-32 lead. Meanwhile, the Rhino straight tossed Big Baby (Glen Davis) onto the ground while grabbing a defensive board. Wow.
- "Smith's just so compact," said Thomas. "For me, guarding those smaller guys that were compact is sometimes harder than guarding a big guy. You know where the big guys are going to go, but Craig's so low to the ground, you have to get as low as possible on him and stay off him. "
- "He has a million ways to score around the basket," added Sikka. One of which, of course, is the "O-Roll," which he created after his mother tried to teach him Kareem's hook shot.
- 'Toine just hit the 1,379th three of his career to even the score at 35. Thomas backed up the notion that 'Toine is a good teammate, and that now that he's a vet, he should be able to help the young guys out a lot.
- Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are a combined 2-for-9 from the field. Pierce does have four assists and three boards.
- Gerald Green's been getting burn, and is 2-for-4 thus far. His second hoop gave the Wolves a 43-40 lead halfway through the first. Minnesota already has 15 points off the bench, a huge shift from the Golden State game in which no one but the starters scored until the fourth quarter.
- Jefferson just made a nice defensive play, stealing the ball from Garnett, and moments later, McCants scored his ninth point on a three to put Minnesota up 47-42. KG responded with a bucket near the hoop, but the Wolves are going punch for punch with Boston. The Celtics just don't look that good to me so far. Thomas is saying that they might be playing down to the Wolves. At the same time, I'm arguing, the Wolves are gaining confidence, and have to be given some credit.
- We're arguing voraciously about Pistons vs. Celtics making it out of the East, with John and I (and roommate Johnny) on Detroit and Robby pleading for Boston. Nearly every point that Sikka is making, Thomas and I think we've been able to counter. The biggest difference is Detroit's depth of talent, and the fact that Boston was riding an emotional wave for the first 40 games, but now teams have figured them out, and their lack of depth is catching up.
- One example from Thomas: "First of all, Rasheed Wallace out of any power forward in the entire NBA, gives Garnett the most trouble. I'd take Rip Hamilton over Ray Allen right now with where they are at in their careers." Also, Prince can almost cancel Pierce out, and then look at the point guard position. Billups vs. Rajon Rondo? Come on.
- Kendrick Perkins scored the final four points of the quarter to put Boston up 50-47. Obviously, the Wolves have had problems defending low-post players, and Perkins is showing why. He has 14 points for the half to lead Boston. KG finished with 10 and nine, Jefferson nine points and just two boards, but Rhino helped out with seven boards off the bench.
- We talked about how Jefferson was great early with eight points, but clearly, Boston was focused on shutting him down after that point. Due to what Thomas called a mix of Minnesota not getting him the ball enough and the Celtics paying particular attention. Thomas also mentioned that sometimes, the ball just doesn't get over there within the flow of the offense. "Sometimes you'll show on a certain side, but the ball gets thrown to the other side, and you don't have a chance to get a good touch."
- John and Robby are saying that Perkins was the X-factor in the first half. "When teams focus on guys like Allen, Pierce, and Garnett, other players like Perkins have a chance to step up. That's what he did."
- ERRORS: You're bound to find some here, and I'll apologize in advance. Please feel free to write the mailbag and make fun of me.
|OK John, we told you we'd include this picture of Dwyane Wade swatting you if you took the good chair. Sorry.|
- "The third quarter is difficult for a lot of teams, because you tend to lose a bit of your focus. You're in the locker room, not on the court playing, and you also lose your rhythm because you're not running around. You're thinking about the game plan, and what needs to change, and you can get stiff. That's why it's really important to get warmed up, and coaches always stress that. It's a fine balance between getting strategy in, and having time to warm up."
- A few minutes into the quarter, the cameras zoomed in on some trash talk between KG and Big Al. John once again doesn't think it's proper to translate what KG's saying. Sikka and I, however, think this was the interchange:
KG: "I think you're having a great game son. And your jersey looks nice. Where are you looking for a house? I know there's some nice real estate out there in the 'Sota."
Jefferson: "Thanks KG. That's really nice of you to say about my game. And I like how you shave your head. You're cool. Now, as for real estate? Yeah man, Wayzata. Lake Minnetonka. That's the spot."
KG: "I feel you, dog. You want to touch my band-aid?"
Jefferson: "No way man, that's weird."
- At that point, the refs moved in.
- Rondo vs. Telfair: Rajon has four points, three assists, three boards and two steals. Telfair has 10 points, four assists, two boards and two steals. Remember, Boston decided to go with Rondo over Telfair last year. Call me biased, but I'll take Bassy. John's going with Telfair too, and Sikka, who like me is a Telfair fan, is definitely with us. "He has the potential to be true floor general, and I'll say that with confidence," said Thomas.
- Sikka notes that Minnesota's had a lot of balance so far. The Wolves will have at least five guys in double-figures.
- "He needs to watch 'He Got Game' again. Or we should get him the J.J. Redick shooting video," says Sikka of Ray Allen, who's 2-of-12.
- "The key for McHale was to get the best young player available if he was going to trade KG, and I think they got him," said Doc Rivers. Couldn't agree more.
- By the way, you can listen to the call of this game from our own Alan Horton and Billy McKinney for free on NBA.com from anywhere in the world.
- "Minnesota's played pretty consistent throughout the game," said Thomas. "They're playing hard on defense, especially on the perimeter, and they're keeping the Celtics' stars in check." Sikka mentions that Pierce and Allen are now 5-for-22. As such, it's 58-58 halfway through the quarter.
- "Al's game is all about deception," said Thomas. "When you think he's going to shoot a jumper, he's looking to reverse pivot and go around you. And when you think he's going to drive he shoots."
- Jefferson's hit us with great footwork on two-straight possessions, both resulting in hoops with KG guarding him to give Minnnesota a two-point lead.
- By the way, we heard that the Sweetwaterjones.com site crashed earlier. I guess that's what happens when everyone gets jacked up to see KG's return.
- Our most recent argument is whether or not diet pop is bad for you. Again, it's me and John vs. Robby, who wouldn't take the Cherry Coke I offered.
- 66-62 Wolves after Corey Brewer nails a baseline jumper. Love to see that.
- After a high-scoring first quarter, both teams have buckled down. The effort has been solid all-around. Back to Brewer, he just made the play of the game thus far, nailing a contested, deep jumper with Paul Pierce draped all over him to give Minnesota a 68-67 lead after three. Brewer seems to have turned a small corner with his shot, thanks in part to lots of work from the coaching staff, particularly J.B. Bickerstaff, every day in practice.
- Sikka just let me know that Garnett has had only two points since the first quarter. More stats: Boston had seven turnovers in the third quarter. Boston's up 32-27 on the glass.
- Thomas said the biggest thing for Minnesota is that they've played consistently hard throughout the game. "They're making hustle plays, they're surprising the Celtics a bit, and they are gaining confidence." Sikka added that the Wolves have closed out each quarter well, which is a sign of a young team maturing. Good point, I think.
|Spree: "Hey JT, look at that! KG's mouth foam is getting all up in Mad Dog's hair!
Thomas: "Yeah, son!"
(OK, we're waiting for pictures from the actual game, but they aren't in yet. So you get JT.)
- The three guys that stick out to Thomas as having good games are Jefferson, Smith and Perkins.
- Rhino has been huge off the bench, particularly on the glass with 10 boards after grabbing another early in the fourth.
- We're all surprised that Garnett has only taken four shots so far. "Superstars, no matter who they are, should take the majority of the shots," said Thomas.
- "But I used to hate when we were on the floor at the same time, because the 7-foot vacuum used to grab every rebound," Thomas continued. "He has anticipation, height, desire and athleticism. I used to ask him to let me get a few, and he'd laugh."
- Both teams are shooting 40 percent from the field, though Minnesota has attempted 18 more shots, due to turnovers and Boston getting to the line. Minnesota began the fourth just 1-of-7, but when Jefferson hit again with 8:15 left, the Wolves took a four-point lead at 73-69. On the next possession, Walker made a great play to strip Eddie House, resulting in two Telfair free throws. Make it 75-69.
- Robby and John are talking about the anticipation on the perimeter being terrific for Minnesota. "The Wolves are doing a great job of helping the helper, as they say. You have to do that to play good D in the league, and Minnesota's been great in that aspect." Most recently, the help resulted in consecutive steals for the Wolves. Really, really impressive right now. It seems as if the Celtics are completely surprised that a team like Minnesota, with just seven wins, can be playing this well.
- "Boston had to take a timeout when KG took one in a place that Reggie Evans has been known to frequent," said Sikka. This makes us think of the cookie jar comment on "Inside the NBA" that we've referred to 100 times on this site.
- McCants answered an Allen three (finally) with a three of his own, but Perkins hit again for his 17th point. Telfair responded with a deep J, but Perkins scored again inside for his 19th point.
- "Sebastian Telfair, cold blooded!" That was Hanneman after sweet step-back J from Telfair.
- It was 82-76 and Walker stripped the ball (Thomas did the Shimmy for us). Jefferson grabbed an offensive board, but failed to kick it back out as Thomas would have liked to see, instead tossing up a prayer. Pierce responded with an and-1, but who else but Corey Brewer hit another deep jumper. Wow.
- 84-81 Minnesota, and KG's on the sideline. Make that 86-81 with a HUGE hoop by Telfair at the rack, after he flew by Rondo. That's 20 big points for Sebastian. Also, we may have been mistaken about what happened to KG. He's obviously hurt.
- Never mind, KG's back in now.
- After two Eddie House free throws, McCants missed a contested jumper, but Jefferson grabbed a huge offensive board, this time kicking it out. And while Gomes missed a shot in the lane at the end of the shot clock, McCants drew a charge from Pierce with 59 seconds left and the Wolves up three. Actually a travel, not a charge, but wow...
- Big Al couldn't convert on the baseline, and Boston took a timeout with 37.5 seconds left.
- What's going through your mind as a player for the Wolves, Thomas? "We need a huge defensive stop, because that will kill momentum that they might be able to get. Don't do anything stupid, like foul a jump shooter, and more importantly, if they miss, grab that board. You don't want any of their Big 3 to beat you, but your focus is on everybody."
- So we just heard about how big it'd be to get a defensive board, but since it was a layup attempt by Pierce which missed, it became a free-for-all under the basket. The refs weren't going to call anything, and Minnesota didn't have a chance to box out. There wasn't any room to put a body on somebody, and Pierce came down with the ball after what seemed like four tips. He went up and put it down to make it 86-85 Minnesota with 23.2 left.
- Oh NO!! Worst-case scenario here. Minnesota got called for a five-second turnover, unable to inbound the ball.
- Ray Allen got to the hoop and missed a layup, but Perkins - who else - put it back with a dunk. 16.6 remaining, Boston up one now.
- Thomas said the Wolves ran the exact same play from which they couldn't inbound the ball last time, and this time Jaric (Brewer last time) called a timeout.
- Jefferson got double-teamed in the corner, had to toss the ball out to the perimeter, and Garnett poked it away from Telfair to steal a win for Boston. That one hurts, after another four solid quarters of play, when the Wolves just couldn't seal the deal late.
- Thomas: "I felt like the Wolves had momentum all the way through, but in the end they showed why they're a young team. They had an opportunity to win the game, but when you get that much pressure, turnovers are bound to happen. But you have to look at the positives: It was a great, quality effort against a really good team."
- 87-86 Celtics.
- Hopefully, instead of focusing on Minnesota's tough final minute, fans can appreciate the Wolves' effort and take it as a positive sign towards the future.