Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Celtics

Wolves (25-27) vs. Celtics (28-22) - 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

The Timberwolves continue to keep themselves in the Western Conference’s playoff race, and as they prepare for their final game in March the Wolves know they need to take advantage of every matchup from here on out in order to snag a postseason berth.

That makes tonight’s home matchup against the Boston Celtics an important springboard into April. Minnesota and Boston will tip off at 7 p.m. tonight at Target Center, and each team will likely look at this game as one necessary to help bolster their playoff hopes.

Minnesota currently sits 11th in the Western Conference—2.5 games behind both Utah and Houston, who are tied for the 7th and 8th spots. The Celtics hold the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference and are 7-3 in their last 10 games, but they’ve also got New York and Milwaukee surging in the 8th and 9th spots. Boston is 10-14 on the road this season.

Minnesota has played just one home game in the past 20 days, but the Wolves are 13-12 at Target Center and hope to stay above .500 at home with a win against the Celtics tonight.

Boards and ball movement

The Celtics are the league’s top assist team this season, dishing off 23.5 assists per game. It all starts with point guard Rajon Rondo, who is second only to Steve Nash in the NBA with 10.8 assists per night. That’s the second best APG total of his career—he had 11.2 last season. But the Celtics also get 4.8 assists a night from small forward Paul Pierce, 2.9 from Kevin Garnett and 2.5 from Ray Allen. Minnesota will need to be active defensively tonight to make sure the Celtics’ ball movement doesn’t create too many open looks.

On the flip side, Boston is 30th in the league in rebounding at 38.2 boards per game. Garnett is the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 boards per night, and no one else is averaging more than 5.9 per contest. The boards could be a big factor in this game, as Wolves forward Kevin Love boasts the second best rebounds per game total in the league at 13.9 a night. He snatched 19 rebounds on Wednesday against Charlotte and 21 on Sunday against Denver. If center Nikola Pekovic returns after missing five games with bone spurs in his right ankle, it could pose more problems on the glass for Boston. He’s listed as questionable tonight, and if he plays he’ll bring that brute force in the paint that led to him averaging 9.7 rebounds in February and 8.5 boards in March—along with 12 double-doubles.

Love continues to roll

Wolves Minute with John Focke

Wolves forward Kevin Love continues to challenge Timberwolves and NBA records during his assault on the league this month. Love already set the team’s record with 51 points in a single game against Oklahoma City on March 23, and on Wednesday against Charlotte he scored 40 points for the fourth time in his career—tying Kevin Garnett’s team record for most 40 point games in a Wolves uniform.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Love’s 469 points and 211 rebounds in March are the second most for one player in a single month in the past 15 years—Shaquille O’Neal had 499 points and 218 rebounds for the Lakers in March 2001. Love has a shot to eclipse O’Neal in both categories tonight, and it would be on an even scale: the 2001-02 Lakers and 2011-12 Timberwolves each will have played 17 games in their respective months of March. Love is averaging 31.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per game this month.

Big minutes from Tolliver

Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver is making the most of his extended playing time while Pekovic is injured. He played 30 minutes against Charlotte, bringing intensity and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor while racking up 11 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 4-of-7 from the field and hit a 3-pointer for the fourth time in six games.

Pierce heating up

Celtics small forward Paul Pierce continues to heat up as we head into the home stretch of the regular season. He’s averaging 22.4 points in March—the most of any month this season—and put up season-highs with 36 points and 10 rebounds on Monday against the Bobcats. Pierce is shooting 46 percent from the floor this month and is not only getting to the foul line more frequently in March (averaging 6.8 free-throw attempts per game), he’s making them at an 88.0 percent clip.

Injury report

Along with Pekovic being listed as questionable for tonight’s game, Wolves forward Michael Beasley remains questionable with a sprained great toe on his left foot. He’s missed four of the last nine games, most recently Wednesday against Charlotte, since suffering the sprain on March 12 against Phoenix. For the Celtics, Ray Allen is listed as day-to-day with a sore right ankle, as is Mickael Pietrus with a head injury suffered March 23 against the 76ers. Jermaine O’Neal is out after undergoing left wrist surgery. He hasn’t played since Feb. 20.

Final Muskies game of the season

Tonight’s game against the Celtics will be the sixth and final time the Timberwolves will wear the Minnesota Muskies jerseys at home this season. The Wolves also wore the vintage 1967-68 Muskies uniforms from their one and only season in the American Basketball Association against the Pacers, Mavericks, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers this season. The jerseys, part of the Hardwood Classic series, aim to pay tribute to former ABA club that played at Met Center in Bloomington.

Vanilla Ice to perform at halftime

Multi-platinum recording artist Vanilla Ice will put on a special halftime performance during tonight’s game against the Celtics. Vanilla Ice's album "To The Extreme," released in August of 1990, became the fastest selling hip hop album of all time, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album, featuring the smash hit "Ice Ice Baby," spent 16 weeks on the charts, and sold 11 million copies. Vanilla Ice, a two-time American Music Award winner, released his eighth studio album in 2011 and currently stars in "The Vanilla Ice Project" which airs on the DIY Network.

You can become a part of the Wolves Radio Network by Howling at the Wolves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio or @JWFocke and Studio Host John Focke and Coach Steve Brown will answer them on 830 WCCO and the Wolves Radio Network.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.