1/5 Game Preview: Timberwolves at Celtics
BOSTON -- Karl-Anthony Towns was 9 years old the last time the Minnesota Timberwolves won a basketball game at TD Garden.
Friday night, Towns, now 22, and his 'Wolves look to snap an 11-game losing streak on the unfriendly parquet, where Minnesota hasn't won since March 6, 2005.
The game is expected to be played as scheduled despite blizzard-like weather that caused the cancellation of the Boston Bruins' NHL home game Thursday night.
While the Celtics improved to 31-10 with Wednesday night's rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota (24-15) was suffering a closing-seconds 98-97 defeat to the Nets in Brooklyn -- only the second loss in the last nine games for the T-wolves.
Jimmy Butler missed a final shot that could have won it for the Wolves in Brooklyn, but after 17-0 and 16-0 starts to their previous two games, they came out flat Wednesday.
"I don't know, it wasn't there obviously," Butler said after the game. "We didn't play that much good basketball."
Spencer Dinwiddie, whose long shot attempt could have tied the Celtics on Sunday in Boston, hit the winner for the Nets, who went 14 of 30 from 3-point range while Minnesota hit just one of its 11 long-range shots.
"We're in position to win and you've got to get a stop to win and we didn't do it," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We needed one stop. We didn't get it."
The Celtics didn't have such problems. They established control of their game early and never let up as the Cavaliers, on the back end of a back-to-back, clearly didn't have the legs. They also didn't have Isaiah Thomas, who had made his debut for the Cavs the previous night at home.
Terry Rozier came off the bench to lead all scorers with 20 points.
Boston hit the halfway mark at 31-10 -- 31-8 after losing the first two games -- of the season.
Asked if he expected to be in this position atop the Eastern Conference with this record midway through the season, Al Horford said, "Not really, especially after obviously losing Gordon (Hayward). I think that our young guys have come along quickly.
"And a lot of credit goes to Coach (Brad Stevens) really giving them the confidence and putting them in positions to flourish. But our group keeps developing. We still have a ways to go as a group, but it's encouraging to see our guys starting to understand what it takes."
Rookie Jayson Tatum, who won't turn 20 until March, was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for December, the fifth Celtic to win the award and the first since Marcus Smart in 2015.
For the month, Tatum averaged 32.0 minutes, 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 17 games during the month.
"He's doing a great job of just figuring it out every single day," says Kyrie Irving. "He's a high-level player and a high-level mind. He's mature beyond his years, so he's always figuring it out on a day-to-day basis. He's a rookie, and he still has a long way to go, but presently, now, he's in a further place than most rookies are in this league."
The 'Wolves got in from Minnesota ahead of the snowstorm and held an optional practice Thursday.
Butler has scored 84 points over the last three games. Towns has had 37 rebounds over the same span.
Minnesota, looking to tighten up its defense, has forced 75 turnovers over the last four games, a statistic that will be put to the test against the normally efficient Celtics.