Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Celtics
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“Every game before the game we say, ‘This is the biggest game of the year,’ because it really is,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We’re really at that point where every game is the most important game of the year, and we still have a chance to make a push.”
The Wolves and Celtics will tip off at 7 p.m. from Target Center in their lone meeting of the season, and both teams have a lot to play for tonight. Minnesota sits 2 ½ games out of a playoff spot in the log-jammed Western Conference, while Boston sits in seventh in the East and is currently tied with Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Grabbing the division lead would bump them back into the top half of the East.
“Two good teams—they’re trying to make a push, they have a lot of great players,” forward Kevin Love said. “We’re short-handed, but we want to get a win on our home floor before we go on the road.”
Past meets the present
Love said during Friday’s shootaround that he grew up idolizing the likes of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Chris Webber. In fact, he said he still probably has his old Garnett jersey hanging up in his closet back home.
Tonight, he’ll go head to head with his idol who, coincidentally, used to be face of the franchise he now leads. But even as Love puts up unprecedented numbers in March—he currently leads the league in points, rebounds and 3-point field goals this month, something no other player has ever done in the 3-point era (1979-80)—he said the only real comparison between the two All-Stars is the first name they share.
“It’s really an unfair comparison,” Love said. “He’s a once in a generation player, once in a lifetime player. If I can do some of the things he did for this franchise, it would be nice. But more than anything I just want to win, and he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. Hopefully I can emulate that.”
Love is averaging 31.3 points and 14.1 rebounds this month, which is particularly concerning to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Boston is 30th in the league in rebounds per game.
“We deal with him like we deal with everybody; we let them all get rebounds,” Rivers joked. “It’s not like no one else has gotten rebounds against us. We get out-rebounded every night. We just want to get out-rebounded less tonight.”
All kidding aside, Rivers said he’s been impressed with Love’s play. He said part of Love’s maturation this year is his hard work and his placement in coach Rick Adelman’s system.
“I think Rick is one of the better coaches in this league, and he’s putting him in a great spot on the elbows,” Rivers said. “And he’s already been a good passer, but in this offense that Rick runs I think it allows him to be an even better passer and a more dangerous scorer.”
Allen reflects on Ridnour’s impact
Wolves guard Luke Ridnour has been one of the team’s most consistent players this year, moving from point guard to shooting guard and back while taking on whichever defensive responsibilities are necessary on any given night. All the while, he’s maintained his offensive touch. This month, he’s averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 assists.
Ridnour played with Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen for three seasons in Seattle from 2004-2007, and at today’s shootaround Allen said Ridnour is the type of point guard that keeps others involved.
“He has good vision; he knows where his players are on the court,” Allen said. “He’s a running point guard, so you get on the floor and he’ll be able to find his guys. You’ve always got to be on guard with him.”
Ridnour averaged 6.0 assists per game during his three years playing with Allen, and those three years rank as three of his top four APG seasons of his career. Allen averaged a combined 24.0 points per game during those three seasons.
“He plays basketball the way you want it to be played,” Allen said. “He plays up tempo and can shoot the ball well.”
Injury update: Pek, Beasley and Barea all out
The Wolves will be short handed tonight against Boston as center Nikola Pekovic (right ankle), forward Michael Beasley (left foot) and guard JJ Barea (right thigh) all will not play. Barea said at the morning shootaround that he feels better but will likely not make the trip to Portland on Sunday and Sacramento on Monday.
“We’re going to make that decision, but I don’t think I’m going to go,” Barea said. “I can’t run yet, so I’ve got to make sure I can run first before I can go on the trip.”
With all three out, the Wolves will likely continue to give minutes to Tolliver—who is averaging 30.4 minutes the team’s last five games and put up 11 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday at Charlotte—and Malcolm Lee to back up Luke Ridnour at point guard.
For the Celtics, Allen has missed four games with a sore right ankle and said this morning that he is still unsure if he’ll play. He said it’s swollen and he continues to receive treatment while giving it proper rest. The Timberwolves are planning on Allen playing.
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