Pregame Post-Ups: C's Set To Take on Red-Hot Wolves

Saturday, December 1 - Celtics at Timberwolves

Pregame – C's Set To Take on Red-Hot Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS – Who would have thought that the Minnesota Timberwolves would improve after trading away Jimmy Butler?

Minnesota was 4-9 on the season when it traded Butler, who was leading the team in scoring with an average of 21.3 points per game. It has gone 7-2 since the trade with Philadelphia, which netter the Timberwolves Robert Covington. Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round pick.

The list of teams Minnesota has taken down during its resurgence is not impressive, as only one of the wins came against a team that sits above the .500 mark, but its play certainly has improved. With Covington, who is one of the better wing defenders in the league, in the fold, the Timberwolves have become the league’s second-best defense since the trade. At the other end of the floor, Karl-Anthony Towns and Derrick Rose have been playing incredible basketball.

“He’s playing at a ridiculously high level right now,” Brad Stevens said of Towns before tonight’s game. “And they’re really posting him, really going to him in every which way. He’s playing with unbelievable force and confidence.”

Towns is averaging 21.6 PPG on 15.3 field goal attempts per game since the trade. Those numbers are up from 19.9 PPG on 14.9 FGA per game prior to the trade.

One boost the Celtics will have tonight in their matchup with Towns is a rested Al Horford. Horford was held out of Friday’s blowout win over the Cavaliers for rest purposes, and that rest should set him up with a full tank of gas as he prepares to defend Towns throughout tonight’s game.

Thanks to a break in the schedule and last night’s rest, Horford has not played since Monday night in New Orleans.

While Boston uses Horford and the remainder of the frontline to slow down Towns, it will also need to dedicate plenty of attention to Derrick Rose, who has suddenly returned to playing at an incredibly high level. Rose is averaging 20.5 PPG since Nov. 5, and 19.9 PPG since the Butler trade.

The key to Rose’s resurgence has been the combination of his speed off the dribble with an improved 3-point shot. Rose is shooting 48.6 percent from long range this season, which ranks fourth in the league.

“He’s an amazing downhill player who’s shooting 48 percent from 3, which makes it really tough to guard him,” Stevens said of Rose’s return to glory. “It’s just a testament to a lot of hard work and a belief that you just kind of keep going and good things will happen. He’s playing at a high level.”

The Timberwolves in general are playing at a high level since they dealt away Butler. Towns and Rose are leading the way, while newcomers Covington and Saric are helping Minnesota to be one of the better defenses in the league.

- Marc D'Amico