Celtics-Wolves review: C's overcome second-quarter issues

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Celtics-Wolves review: C's overcome second-quarter issues

BOSTON The second quarter was once again one of the Boston Celtics' weaker quarters of play.

But it didn't matter much on Wednesday as the Celtics put together a strong second half surge that propelled them to a 104-94 win over Minnesota.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team's play overall, but would have been remiss if he didn't take note of the team once again having its problems in the second quarter.

"The second quarter was not one of our better quarters," Rivers said. "But the second half defensively was terrific."

Minnesota outscored Boston 21-20 in the second quarter. In 18 games this season, Boston has been outscored in the second quarter 13 times.

And of those five games in which they generated more points than their opponent in the second, the C's have gone on to win all five of those games.

Figuring out how to be a more effective team in the second quarter remains one of the challenges for the C's this season. Here are some other keys in tonight's game outlined prior to tip-off.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It's not coachspeak when Doc Rivers talks about the Timberwolves as being a great rebounding team and not just a good one. They shot better than 53 percent from the field in their Tuesday night win over Philadelphia, and still had a double-digit (plus-13) advantage on the boards. Anything short of keeping the rebounding margin close could spell big trouble for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did more than hold its own on the boards against the Timberwolves - they actually won the rebounding game with 45 boards compared to 41 for Minnesota. "We were pretty good," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That's a hard team to rebound against, and we held our own."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Josh Howard: The Captain is due for a monster game after averaging 15 points and six assists in Boston's last three, two of which the C's lost. Howard earned his third start of the season on Tuesday, and came through with season-highs in points scored (16) and rebounds (10) for his first double-double of the season.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had a quietly effective game with 18 points, four rebounds and a pair of assists while Howard had 12 points and three steals but not a single rebound. "You know we're challenged rebound-wise," said Pierce who added, "and a majority of these games we haven't rebounded well so that's mainly what the last couple days of practice have been is put bodies on people, go after rebounds, box out, those little things that are going to help us win games."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Even though the Celtics split the two games Rajon Rondo missed while serving a two-game suspension, the C's ball movement was surprisingly strong in his absence. It'll be worth monitoring if they can continue to be that efficient with their ball distribution now that Rondo has returned.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo have a very Rondo-like game with lots of assists (a game-high 11) and a decent amount of points (17 points). Rondo said it took him "two seconds" to get his rhythm back after missing the last two games while serving a two-game suspension for pushing Brooklyn's Kris Humphries.

STAT TO TRACK: Although you certainly couldn't tell in Minnesota's win over Philadelphia, 3-point shooting has been a problem for the Timberwolves this season. Despite connecting on 13-of-25 3s (52 percent) taken against the Sixers, it still remains a clear and present danger to their chances of beating the Celtics. Minnesota is shooting 30.5 percent on 3s this season which is literally at the bottom of the NBA standings (No. 30 out of 30 teams) in 3-point shooting.

WHAT WE SAW: Minnesota was launching the 3-ball once again, but didn't have nearly as much success as they did the previous night in Philadelphia. The Timberwolves were 6-for-19 shooting 3s against the Celtics, the last of which came at the game's conclusion from rookie guard Alexey Shved.

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

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“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”