Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Our Celtics stay home tonight in their third game of this splendid five game homestand. Coming off a shaky win against the Knicks, the C’s are looking to restart their momentum they enjoyed prior to their two game losing streak. But tonight certainly won’t be a gimme.
On paper, I’m afraid this would be a blowout. The Timberwolves, despite their 12-12 record, rank highly in many statistical categories, including points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, three pointers made, and free throw percentage. For those of us that watched the Nets game, or any game against a dominating big man, we know the Celtics struggle with star frontcourts. And what do the Timberwolves have? Arguably the best bigs in the NBA. Forward Kevin Love has developed into an MVP-candidate with an uncontainable inside-outside game. Averaging 31 points per game over the last four contests, Love leads the league in rebounds per game at a behemoth clip of 13.6 per contest. Lining up next to him will be colossal Nikola Pekovic, standing nearly seven feet tall with 285 pounds of bulk. Pekovic is averaging 16.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. But the Timberwolves do most of their damage from downtown, with sharpshooting guard Kevin Martin firing alongside Love. The pair has hit over 100 threes on the season.
Nov 30, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) makes a basket over Dallas Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert (1) during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Mavericks 112-106. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
So do our Celtics have a shot tonight? Of course! The Celtics have spent the whole year doing exactly the opposite of what we expect. Beat the Heat and the Nuggets? Sure! Lose to the Bucks and the Nets? Of course! But tonight will require one of the best performances we’ve seen yet. Jared Sullinger has seen his production slip against star bigmen because of the expended energy on the defensive end. If Sullinger is to have a big offensive night, Vitor Faverani’s defensive input will be crucial. The biggest hole in the ‘Wolves’ game can be found in their defense. Allowing 101.7 points per game, the Celtics could have a chance if this turns into a shootout. But that will be impossible without dominating games from Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford. Crawford put up an eye-gouging performance against the Knicks, missing all 8 eight of his shots. He had played strongly in the four games prior, but he will need to tire out Ricky Rubio on that end to give the Celtics a chance defensively Green has only scored more than twenty points once this month, his scoring touch will be vital if this game turns into a shootout like I predict.
I hate to sound gloomy, but just a few too many signals point to Minnesota for tonight’s game. Boston has had the high scorer in just seven games this year and will be facing the fourth best offense in the league. Tonight’s scoreboard will be very intriguing as the 4th best offense (MIN) faces the 5th best defense (BOS) while the 23rd best offense (BOS) faces the 24th best defense (MIN). To reiterate, my guess points to a shootout, with Minnesota getting the edge thanks to their outside shooting and free throw percentage. But luckily, basketball games aren’t played on paper! These Celtics have made a habit of proving me wrong. But unfortunately, predictions are made on paper. So here’s to hoping I’m wrong! Tune in tonight on twitter @HoudiniCeltics for live tweets and check back here afterwards for my postgame recap. Enjoy and go green!