Even without Derrick White, and with Joe Mazzulla donning glasses on the sideline, the Boston Celtics could not be stopped in Brooklyn on November 4. Three players scored 20 or more points against the Nets with the fourth star, Jrue Holiday finishing just one rebound away from his sixth triple-double of his professional career.
This team has scored over 120 points in three consecutive contests in the most elite basketball league in the world. This is not NBA2K remember. This is real life. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that. How the Celts can break down their opponent is endless. It’s like my Christmas list every year: several pages long.
Using the versatility of their stars, the length of the Latvian big, and the two-way presence of both starting guards, nobody has solved the problem that is Boston.
Five have tried. All have failed.
On November 6 at the Target Center, Mazzulla’s men encounter a club that many may not see as the one to break up this special run. Boston may have the best offensive rating by a considerable margin, but Chris Finch’s Minnesota Timberwolves hold the most prolific defense of this early season. The Western Conference side head into Monday’s matchup on its home floor riding a streak of its own.
Anthony Edwards and company have lost two of its first five games, but none of them were in Minneapolis. In each of these matchups, the Wolves have held their opponents to under 95 points. Those weren’t against non-playoff ball clubs. Denver of all teams walked into Target Center and left only having scored 89 points. The defending champions did not even net its first basket until the 8:00-minute mark of the first quarter.
In the home opener for the T-Wolves, the Miami Heat could not find any rhythm in the fourth quarter, netting just 17 points in 12 minutes en route to a 106-90 defeat.
Finch has players who can get into the passing lanes on the perimeter in addition to those who can send shots into the second row of the stands. Outside of just Ruby Gobert, Jaden McDaniels, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are collecting frequent rejections. Minnesota is the only ball club in the NBA this season to allow its opponents less than 15 points off of turnovers. Four Wolves have averaged at least one steal per game so far. That’s double what the Boston Celtics have. Most of that is due to where Minnesota is picking the ball up in the halfcourt. The ball pressure has been sensational.
The Atlanta Hawks laid the blueprint for Boston in the third quarter on October 30. Get out in transition and run. Don’t let Minnesota set up in the halfcourt. Even on a made basket, the Hawks pushed the ball up the floor which sparked a momentous comeback in front of their fans. Only the Milwaukee Bucks have conceded more fast break points on average so far in this campaign. It’s a glaring issue in the Wolves’ defense that Mazzulla could emphasize to keep this unbeaten run alive.
Boston Celtics offense going to be tested by elite Minnesota defense
The two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had to earn every one of his 25 points on the first day of November. Jayson Tatum is going to see that same sort of resistance. There is only so much you can read into these numbers early in the season. Still, credit and recognition have to be thrown Minnesota’s way.
Finch’s team was top-10 in defensive rating in 2022/2023, but is showing signs that it has taken a step forward. Boston has won 12 of its last 13 games against the Western Conference outfit, but nothing is going to come easy with a sixth successive triumph up for grabs. The Wolves have not seen a beast like this on its schedule yet though.
The Boston Celtics are flying and somehow look as good as advertised, but they may need to put their foot on the gas even more against a side seeking a third straight postseason appearance.