UPDATE (3/30 @5:45pmCT): The TWolves will be without center Nikola Pekovic, forward Michael Beasley and guard J.J. Barea. You can find the full injury report with the detail under our "Team Report" section on this site. For the Celtics--they'll be without Ray Allen. Expect Avery Bradley to get the start.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are facing the Boston Celtics at home on Friday. A team that has won nine straight over Minnesota these past few years. The Celtics will also be going for a 5th straight win over Minnesota at the Target Center.
These are different times for both franchises, however. The Minnesota Timberwolves are no longer the punching bag for the NBA. The core of that 2008 Championship team still remains intact with Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett. They may not be seen as a strong contender anymore, but that remains hard to say, considering how well they've been playing lately.
The Boston Celtics are currently on a three-game winning streak and have won five of their last six games and are currently tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division. With a win over the TWolves the Celtics would be in sole possession of that spot.
The Celtics are currently 7th in the Eastern Conference, if they were to win, they'd be bumped up to 4th in the East. The Timberwolves are still looking to get themselves back in the playoffs. The aftermath of Rubio's season-ending injury has not been kind to Minnesota. Rubio went down on March 9th. The last time the TWolves strung successive wins in a row was March 3-7 (was a 3-game winning streak). A win vs. the Celtics would be their first two-game win streak since that time.
Minnesota may have fallen back a bit, but they haven fallen out of the playoff picture. The Timberwolves are currently 11th in the Western Conference and are 2.5 game(s) behind three teams (Denver, Houston & Utah) tied for 7th.
After a win vs. Charlotte, another W over the Celts would prove helpful. That may not be so easy, though. In the past five games Paul Pierce has been playing, quite well. Pierce is averaging 24.4ppg over that time--which is 5.4 higher than his season average.
Paul Pierce may be playing well as of late, but Kevin Love has been playing at at UNBELIEVABLE level! Love is averaging 31.3ppg during the month of March, which is 4.7 above his average on the year. With the March hes' been having Love is receiving well-deserved MVP consideration. However, Love has said recently that if the only way he should be considered for the playoffs is if the Wolves make the playoffs. With his 30, 40, 50...point games, if those kinds of numbers continue and he can get a little help from the role players--there's absolutely no reason Minnesota can't break into the tough battle that is the Western Conference playoffs.
The Boston Celtics are one team that Kevin Love has struggled against during his career. His career average vs. Boston is 10.5ppg while shooting just over 36% from the field. That is his worst against any opponent. That doesn't mean much, though. His averages vs. Charlotte were the second-worst against any opponent in his career. If you'll recall he dropped 40pts, 19reb & 4ast on the Cats. Enough said!
Another big player for the Celtics recently, has been Kevin Garnett, I've heard plenty "Kevin Garnett of Old" comments on Twitter. With Jermaine O'Neal out and the Celtics' only other center being former-TWolf Greg Stiemsma, Kevin Garnett has manned the middle for the Celtics. He'll be playing in his former stomping grounds where he's said he misses the fans...but not the franchise. Apparently a bit of 'bad blood' for KG. Against his former team, Garnett has played 5 games against Minnesota. In those five games, KG is averaging 12.4ppg. Hopefully that's the Kevin Garnett we see tonight...not the "KG of Old".
The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently 25-27 on the season, 13-12 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Boston Celtics are 28-22 on the year, 10-14 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are also, currently on a three-game winning streak.
The Celtics' last game came against the Utah Jazz. The result was a 94-82 win. Kevin Garnett had 23pts & 10reb, Pierce added 20 and Brandon Bass had 19. 10 of Garnett's 23 points came in the fourth quarter after the Celtics had squandered an 18-point lead. KG was a big part of pulling away for the W, in that one.
The TWolves currently have three players that are listed as 'questionable' for tomorrow's game: Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley. Pek is dealing with bone spurs in his ankle, it was stated earlier this week that he may be able to play on Friday...at the earliest. If he's unable to go, Kevin Love & Derrick Williams will likely pair up in the frontcourt together, once again. Michael Beasley & J.J. Barea are both more likely to play. J.J. is out with a thigh contusion (bruise) and Beasley is still dealing with that sprained toe. I'd expect at least J.J. to play, but I'll give an update here...before tipoff. If J.J. is able to return, that'll be 'big' for Minnesota who need him as their backup point guard. Malcolm Lee has been all right, but J.J. is clearly (at this time) superior.
For the Celtics they will be without reserve swingman Mickael Pietrus who took a nasty fall and is currently listed as OUT with a concussion. They did say he's been showing some improvement, but is still out indefinitely. The Celts may also be without their starting shooting guard Ray Allen. He's currently listed as a gametime decision. He's missed the past four games with an ankle injury...here's hoping that'll be one more...
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
Luke Ridnour vs. Rajon Rondo (12.4ppg, 10.8apg, 1.7spg)
Martell Webster vs. Ray Allen (14.6ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0spg)
Wesley Johnson vs. Paul Pierce (19ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.2spg)
Derrick Williams vs. Brandon Bass (12.2ppg, 5.9rpg, 0.8bpg)
Kevin Love vs. Kevin Garnett (15.6ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.1bpg)
If Ray Allen isn't able to play, Avery Bradley (5.0ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.3apg) will likely get the start at shooting guard. The anticipated matchup will be Kevin Love vs. Kevin Garnett. The "NEW" vs. the "old". I laughed at one person on Twitter that suggested we have an actual torch that we light and have KG hand down to K-Love!
That's all for now. One final note: at halftime multi-platinum recording artist Vanilla Ice will be performing. I find it kind of strange...but who knows! Hopefully the Celtics are the ones who are "Ice, Ice Baby!" Haha...all right, I'll just see myself out...
Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!