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


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.

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.