The Minnesota Timberwolves have finally gotten off the snide vs. the Boston Celtics. Granted it was against a Rondo-less, Pierce-less, Garnett-less Boston team, but the Wolves finally snagged a W for the first time, after 11 consecutive losses.
Without Garnett down low the Celtics had absolutely no one who could contend with Pekovic down low. Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph took turns on Pek and he promptly caused them to both get into early foul trouble. Pek missed Saturday's game in Memphis with a sprained ankle, but he returned tonight right where he left off with that win over the OKC Thunder.
Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics offense looked disjointed, however they had plenty of players step up. I was watching the Celtic TV broadcast and Jason Terry was on the show pre-game and said with so many players in and out of the lineup, they have to "do it by committee". Tonight they had a lot of contributors on O. Their defense is without a doubt, what lost them this game.
It was a fairly close game throughout. The Wolves were able to pull ahead by 14 points in the third quarter, before the Celtics came roaring back to make it 84-78 heading into the final frame.
With a bevy of players on the injury list, the Celtics started: Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass & Chris Wilcox. I said it in our preview, if Pek was able to go tonight, don't be surprised if he goes for 30. Well, Pek came back from that sprained ankle and finished with 29 points (2 shy of tying his career-high) in a game-high 41 minutes of action.
Let's take a look at the box score...
The Celtics "did it by committee" on O tonight. They had six players finish in double figures, with point guard Bradley leading with 19. This was one of the first games I've watched Bradley and was surprised by his offensive production in this one. A player known for his defensive edge, he was hitting a number of jump shots to finish 8-of-14 in this one. Ricky Rubio was matched up with him on both ends. Rubio played well early offensively, but Ricky ultimately finished 2-for-11 on the night with 9 points, I'd attribute some of that to Bradley's D. Unfortunately, Avery isn't the playmaking point guard that Rondo is. Bradley finished with just 2 assists which is right on par with his season average. The Celtics still finished with 25 assists as a team, with three players (Terrence Williams, Jordan Crawford & Jeff Green) each finishing with 5 assists.
Terry & Williams came off the bench for 14 apiece & T-Will finished with a decent all-around game, adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists & 1 steal in 22 minutes. I remember him from his New Jersey Nets days and I'm glad he's back in the League and from the way it sounds, he's hopefully found a home in Boston.
Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham & Andrei Kirilenko. They just killed it tonight. Pek was a monster down low and just annihilated the Celtics bigs.
Early this season, J.J. Barea was the Wolves' fourth quarter closer. Having a number of games where he'd go off for double digits in the fourth quarter to propel the Wolves to a win. Lately, Dante Cunningham has taken on that role. Tonight was another prime example as Dante scored 12 of his 19 in the fourth to seal the 10-point W.
Andrei Kirilenko seemed to be returning to form tonight. He had his best game since returning from that calf injury. He finished with 17-9-5-2 in just 27 minutes. He was matched up against Jeff Green. Green has been pretty good offensively when starting for the Celtics, averaging over 22 points as a starter. Kirilenko held him to just 10 points on 10 shots. I was definitely surprised the Celtics didn't look to go a bit more to Green.
The Wolves shot a season-best 92.6% from the free throw line. Nikola Pekovic went 11-for-11 himself and those 11 made free throws ties a career-high. Dante Cunningham went 5-for-6, both those makes & attempts tie career-highs. The Wolves are an excellent team at drawing fouls, while not doing the same, themselves, tonight was another prime example. The Wolves finished with just 11 personal fouls (the second-least of the season), while forcing Boston into 21 and 27 free throw attempts.
When you look at the team stats, the Celtics shot a better percentage from the field and deep, they held a +6 on the boards and got 47 points from their bench. The Wolves made up for those deficiencies by going 25-for-27 from the line, a season-high-tying 30 assists, forced Boston into 17 turnovers for 22 points, went for a season-high 23 fast break points and 62 paint points (second best total of the season).
The Wolves are now 27-46 on the season. With 27 wins that's the most wins in a single season since 2006-07 when the Wolves went 32-50. Despite all these injuries, the Wolves will finish with their best record in over six years!
Minnesota will be looking for #28 when they face the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, stay tuned for the preview, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!