Final, Timberwolves win 106-88: Sorry for the lack of updates. On second thought, no I’m not. Trust me, there wasn’t much to talk about from the final five minutes of this game.
A somewhat competitive back-and-forth game devolved into a Wolves fastbreak drill as the Celtics dropped their third straight game. Jeff Green scored two points in another disappearing act, making it impossible for the Celtics (4-7) to compete with the Wolves (7-4) despite strong performances from Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass.
Bradley scored 27 points, coming within a point of his career high, and Bass had 15 points and seven rebounds on a night when he earned every one of them against Kevin Love.
Love, who has entered the stratosphere as one of the NBA’s five best players, had 23 points and 12 rebounds fairly easily. Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic also cracked the 20-point mark as the Wolves forced 21 Celtics turnovers and seemed to turn every one of them into some sort of highlight pass or finish.
Fourth quarter, 5:22, Wolves 98-80: Watch out, because if you are in the area of either hoop, you are not safe.
Jeff Green fired up a 20-footer, but the problem was, he was only about 15 feet away. The ball rocketed off the backboard and out. A few possessions later, J.J. Barea launched a 26-foot 3-pointer, and after that missed badly, Avery Bradley unleashed a three from the corner that overshot the rim badly.
Apparently, these teams have decided to get into “free play” time early here, because all semblance of offense has disappeared. The fact that Brooks is handling the ball so often may or may not be related.
Fourth quarter, 9:26, Wolves 91-78: MarShon Brooks got some early action tonight and he will get some late action, too.
Brooks started the fourth quarter for the Celtics and recorded a couple of nice baskets to jump start the offense — at least, the Celtics hope he jump-started them. We’ll see just how much impact he has.
End of third quarter, Wolves 89-70: Unless the Celtics have a big comeback in them, they are headed to their third consecutive loss.
Avery Bradley is up to 25 points, three shy of his career high, but the Celtics aren’t getting much offense anywhere else. Brandon Bass is the only other Celtics player in double figures as the Celtics’ deficit just continues to grow.
Kevin Love, who seems to spend a quarter of his time on the floor literally on the floor, had to leave the game again late in the third quarter. It’s not clear what the problem is this time, but even if his night were over, this would be a decent game’s work. Love has 20 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, adding another notch to his MVP candidate belt.
Third quarter, 2:18, Wolves 83-66: Avery Bradley might not have his best game going defensively — not that anybody in green does — but his offense is just fine.
Bradley has a game-high 21 points on 10-for-19 shooting and he is not hesitating at all. He is letting it fly as soon as it touches his hands. Still, the Celtics might be better of trying to get someone else involved — especially if that someone is Jeff Green.
With three quarters almost complete, Green has taken just five shots. That’s fewer than Vitor Faverani and the same amount as shooting-averse Ricky Rubio. The Celtics need another scoring threat than Bradly, obviously, because they aren’t having much success keeping up with the Wolves otherwise.
Third quarter, 7:28, Wolves 68-55: Avery Bradley needs a shock collar or something. That way, Brad Stevens can give a jolt whenever Bradley reaches against Ricky Rubio.
The Celtics got back into this game by holding Minnesota to zero fastbreak points in the second quarter and held steady to begin the third quarter. They pulled as close as four points. But then Bradley got reach-happy, for whatever reason.
Bradley never got completely burned, but the fact that he reached and fell a step behind Rubio in the backcourt forced another Celtic to step up and help as Rubio crossed halfcourt. That 5-on-4 1/2 advantage was all Rubio needed to create open shots for his teammates, leading to the Wolves’ current 9-0 run.
Halftime, Wolves 55-50: Vitor indeed has led the Celtics, and he’s done more than just hit a couple of threes.
Faverani added a fastbreak slam to his first half of work as the Celtics closed the second quarter on a 24-12 run after falling behind by 17 points. Avery Bradley missed a cutting layup but came up with the rebound and drilled a corner three to make it a five-point deficit.
Bradley has been immensely aggressive with his offense and has a game-high 13 points. He hasn’t been the most efficient scorer, but with Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford struggling to get going every one of Bradley’s points is needed.
Kevin Love is one rebound away from a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, muscling up down low as the Wolves have scored 30 points in the paint. The run-happy Wolves fed off the Celtics’ 13 turnovers, but when the Celtics made shots and held onto the ball, it was a bit tougher for the Wolves to get out and run.
Second quarter, 3:44, Wolves 50-40: Welcome in Vitor Faverani, sharpshooter extraordinaire, to bring the Celtics back.
Faverani nailed two 3-pointers to suddenly put the Celtics back in business after falling behind by 17 points. Those shots might not be sustainable, but the Celtics need all the help they can get.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman’s offense is giving the Celtics, particularly the guards, all sorts of problems. The perimeter screening is making Avery Bradley, who is a good defender, look lost. J.J. Barea and Kevin Martin are getting open at will. They just need to knock down the shots. Martin is 2-for-7 from the field while Barea is a much more efficient 4-for-8.
Second quarter, 9:43, Wolves 36-26: Kevin Love might have a headache. That’s not the worst thing for the Celtics, but yikes.
Jared Sullinger caught Love in the face while the two battled for position in the post, which is pretty much the only action the Celtics have had going on offense. They have committed eight turnovers, have only made 10 of their 28 attempts and have missed all three of their 3-point attempts.
All those turnovers and misses are opportunities for the Wolves to run, and they are showing their appreciation with seven fastbreak points.
End of first quarter, Wolves 33-24: When he was on the floor, Brandon Bass was the best big man playing. That was totally expected, right?
Bass had eight points and an impressive rejection of one of Kevin Love’s shots in eight minutes of action. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Bass has been one of their few weapons and not even he can keep up with the fast-paced Wolves.
Ricky Rubio flashed his dribbling skills with a highlight-reel layup, then ran a fastbreak off a Celtics basket to generate a layup for Dante Cunningham. The Wolves will run, run, run, and the Celtics will have to get their oxygen tanks ready. That may be why MarShon Brooks made an unusually early appearance in this game. With Courtney Lee sidelined, the Celtics need all hands on deck.
First quarter, 5:36, Celtics 12-11: Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic haven’t been the Celtics’ biggest problem so far. The Celtics might want to stop just sort of throwing the ball around everywhere, though.
The Celtics have only two turnovers, but it’s not for lack of trying to commit more. Avery Bradley scored back-to-back layups to open the game, but since then he and Jordan Crawford have been throwing the ball off feet and defenders and most of the Celtics’ shots have been wild.
Bradley is 3-for-7 from the field already. He is clearly taking the “shooting” guard role seriously.
7:27 p.m.: Courtney Lee will miss tonight’s game, Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe reports.
Lee has been playing some of his best ball of late, averaging 8.5 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting off the bench. He has a sore right wrist and will join Keith Bogans, who has appeared in just one game this season, on Boston’s bench.
7:20 p.m.: The pair of near-7-foot behemoths on Minnesota’s side pushed Brad Stevens’ hand, prompting the Celtics coach to stick Vitor Faverani back into the starting lineup.
Faverani’s 6-foot-11, 260-pound body will be needed against Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love. While Love is easily the more skilled of the pair, Pekovic is a beast. The 6-foot-11, 285-pound Montenegrin is averaging 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds this season, and is shooting 68.8 percent from the field in the last three games.
Gerald Wallace spoke on Friday about how hard it will be to deal with those two loads up front, as well as the creative backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin.
“Minnesota just has a style of offense that’s hard to guard in itself,” Wallace said. “We’ve obviously got to be tuned in defensively and understand what we’re doing defensively and know how to execute.”
The projected starters are below.
8 a.m. ET: Maybe the Celtics will be the fresher team. At least, there’s a chance.
The Celtics (4-6) head to Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves (6-4) on Saturday, and on paper this one should go to the T’Wolves handily. Kevin Love is a monster, Ricky Rubio is one of the NBA’s most entertaining players and Nikola Pekovic is an interior menace whom the Celtics have no physical answer for.
If the Celtics have a saving grace, it could be that the Wolves are also playing the back end of a back-to-back and had to run up and down the court with the Nuggets in Denver on Friday night. The Wolves’ lungs and legs therefore might not be in the best of shape come Saturday night. Or, playing in the thin Rocky Mountain air may have turned the Wolves into super-breathers and Love might play 48 minutes against the Celtics.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
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