Wolves@ Celtics Gameday
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Wolves @ Celtics 6:30 PM - TD Garden
Where to Watch: FS North
Where to Listen: 1130 KFAN AM
*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 1130 AM.
* Anthony Tolliver (knee) - OUT
* Kevin Garnett (strained calf) - OUT
* Delonte West (broken wrist) - OUT
* Kendrick Perkins (knee) - OUT
Jonny Flynn made the trip to Boston as he deals with a sprained ankle. The second-year point guard missed Saturday night's victory over the Nets and head coach Kurt Rambis said Flynn will play after going through the morning shootaround today. Anthony Tolliver is close to making a return to the floor and cleared to participate in full-contact practice. He did not travel with the team in order to continue conditioning work.
Celtics star Paul Pierce suffered an ankle injury in the contest last night. Head coach Doc Rivers does not believe Boston's leading scorer will miss any time and should be ready to go for tonight's matchup against Minnesota.
The sour taste left from Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year will serve as the primary motivating factor for the 2010-11 Celtics. After walking off the Staples Center floor without a title in hand, Boston added depth on the frontline to counter the loss of Kendrick Perkins for at least the first half of the season. Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal maybe in the twilight of their careers but the historic franchise faces one or two last runs at the championship behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Aside from the Spurs, there is no other team that enjoyed a stronger start to this year’s campaign. However, the major fear in Beantown was old age and potential injuries. At 25-7, Boston missed rising star Rajon Rondo for 17 games and Garnett’s recent strained calf will sideline him for the next 10-14 days. Rondo made his return last night against Toronto just as the Celtics look to take advantage of three straight home games.
Last Time Out
Pierce and Allen combined for 53 points while Rondo dished out eight assists in Boston’s 93-79 road victory. The win effectively snapped a two-game slide for the Celtics.
The Wolves ushered in the New Year with a solid 103-88 win on Saturday night. Kevin Love posted 23 points and 10 boards as Minnesota clamped down on the defensive end of the floor for its third victory in four games.
The Numbers Game
By only allowing 33 second half points, the Wolves displayed their best second half defensive performance of the season. New Jersey only managed nine third quarter points while Minnesota seized control of the contest.
Match-up to Watch
Wolves Backcourt vs. Rajon Rondo
Hard to imagine a few seasons ago that Rondo would be the main concern for opponents facing a Celtics team littered with future Hall of Fame players. He has become one of the elite point guards in the league and at the top of the NBA in assists per game despite missing 12 games this year. Rondo is most dangerous when penetrating the defense inside the paint and finding open teammates or reaching the rim for high percentage shots. In the past, teams have allowed space on the perimeter to force Rondo to shoot jumpers. The negative aspect to that approach is Rondo’s ability to utilize that room for easy passing lanes and a long night for the opposing dense. Minnesota will need strong individual defensive performances out of Luke Ridnour and Sebastian Telfair. Don’t be surprised to see Corey Brewer or Martell Webster pop off the bench in order to help slow down Rondo throughout the game tonight.
What to Look For
Boston owns a stifling defense that tactically picks apart teams, despite the loss of defensive guru Tom Thibodeau to the Bulls this offseason. This year, the Celtics limit opponents to a league's best 90.7 points per game and just 43.3 percent from the floor. The Wolves offense seems to be firing on all cylinders but they will face a stiff test tonight even without Garnett's barking voice on the court. One chink in the armor for Boston is the lack of production on the boards, especially for a team that possesses decent size in the paint. The Celtics rank No. 27 overall while Minnesota holds the top spot, thanks to the incredible output from Love this season. If the Wolves hope to escape Boston with their fourth victory in five games, they must cut down on turnovers and focus on holding the Celtics below 100 points. Boston is powerful at home with only two losses this year to Oklahoma City and New Orleans last Friday night.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jonah on Twitter.