Celtics-Timberwolves review: What we saw


Celtics-Timberwolves review: What we saw

MINNEAPOLIS Good defense leads to great offense. You hear it all the time, but rarely does it smack you in the face the way it did on Friday as the Celtics had little trouble in defeating Minnesota, 100-79.

Boston has had good stretches of defense all season, but Friday's win was arguably their best defensive showing from the opening tip-off to the final horn sounding.

"Our defense is who we are," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

While the C's defense wasn't flawless - they gave up four, 3-pointers in the second quarter - Rivers was pleased with the steady play most of the night.

In addition to limiting Minnesota to just 34.7 percent shooting, Boston also managed to break even - 45 to 45 - with the Timberwolves on the boards.

After the game, aside from the talk about Kevin Garnett getting the better of Kevin Love, most of the chatter was about the Celtics defense which in addition to helping Boston win, has also helped catapult them into the top spot in the Atlantic Division with Friday's win and Philadelphia's loss to Washington.

"They are a good defensive team and that is why they won the championship a few years ago," said Timberwolves guard Luke Ridenour. "You can tell they are very defensive minded and they play well together as a team."

Indeed, Boston's defense was a major factor in Friday's win for the Celtics. We'll review other keys highlighted prior to the game, and see how they played out as Boston extended its winning streak to four in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR As much as rebounding is an issue for the Celtics, it won't do them much good if they do a good job on the boards and don't get out and take advantage of scoring opportunities in transition. The C's average 12.2 points per game in fast break points, which ranks 19th in the NBA. But in Minnesota, they're facing one of the most "fast-break friendly" teams in the NBA. Timberwolves opponents are averaging 16.2 fast-break points per game which ranks 29th in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did a nice job of taking advantage of most of their opportunities to score in transition. The C's had 15 fast-break points that came on 7-for-10 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Kevin Love: The face of franchise past meets the face of franchise present in this duel. The Love-for-league-MVP chatter might have seemed a pipe dream a couple weeks ago, but it isn't that big a stretch now. He's averaging 26.3 points and 13.9 rebounds, numbers the NBA hasn't seen since Moses Malone averaged 31.1 points and 14.7 rebounds during the 1981-1982 season which, by the way, ended with Malone being named league MVP. Garnett, who has delivered strong play for the C's at both ends of the floor all season, recently talked about finding added motivation in facing superstars of the future. "Playing against younger talent that's supposed to be prolific and supposed to be above-average but I'm old though, you know?" said Garnett, who was speaking about talented, young players in general and not specifically Kevin Love. "It don't take much to motivate me."

WHAT WE SAW: You have to score this one for the ghost of franchise past. Not only did Garnett have more points than Love (24 to 22), He also went about it in a much more efficient manner in addition to holding his own on the boards (Garnett had 10 rebounds to Love's 11). All the C's recognized that Garnett, who spent his first 12 NBA seasons in Minnesota, was a little more amped up on Friday night - which is kind of scary when you consider how fired up Garnett is for most games. "I think KG took it personal tonight," said Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver. "I'm sure he's been hearing a lot of stuff that Love is the best power forward in the league and everything else. One night doesn't change it, but he's a competitor and we knew he was going to come in here and bring it straight to Kevin (Love). He (Garnett) looked like his old self tonight."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has been quietly putting together one of the greatest seasons by a Celtics playmaker ever. He comes into tonight's game with double-digit assists in 11 straight games, a franchise record. He had a nine-game stretch last year. To put his numbers in perspective, no Celtics player prior to Rondo had ever had more than seven straight double-digit assist games.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo's string of double-digit assist games was kept alive by halftime, which is when he tallied 12 of his game-high 17. "We got a good rhythm," Rondo said. "It starts defensively. When we get stops like that it's been a good team effort as far as guys spreading the ball around, but it starts with defense."

STAT TO TRACK: Keeping the Timberwolves off the free throw line will be huge for the Celtics tonight. Minnesota averages 25.6 free throw attempts per game which ranks sixth in the league. And when you throw in the fact that they rank in the top 10 in free throw percentage (77.9 percent, ninth in the NBA), the C's can't bank on them missing too many.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't do as good a job as they would have liked in keeping the Timberwolves off the free throw line, as Minnesota connected on 21 of its 25 free throws compared to the C's who were 8-for-11 from the line. But with the Celtics pulling ahead by double digits in the first quarter and maintaining that edge for most of the game, the Timberwolves' advantage at the line was never a factor in the game's outcome.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Nets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Nets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Nets. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App.  Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Celtics' goal in season opener: 'Let's just be us'

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics' goal in season opener vs. Nets: 'Let's just be us'


Celtics' goal in season opener vs. Nets: 'Let's just be us'

BOSTON --  It’s almost impossible not to look at tonight’s Boston-Brooklyn game and not think about where each franchise is currently, and how their statuses are directly bound with one another.
The Brooklyn Nets are preaching patience with their fan base in part because of the 2013 multi-player trade they made with the Celtics that has included them sending a slew of picks Boston’s way.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are a franchise on the rise not only because of the talent it currently has on the roster, but also the potential to add even more difference-making players to the mix courtesy of picks that they will get from Brooklyn in the coming years.
Players for both teams aren’t thinking about their respective franchise’s futures.
Instead, their focus will be on tonight’s game, one in which the Celtics will be heavily favored.
“I’ve been ready [to play],” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “I’ve been ready for the preseason to be over and things to start counting.”
And the season begins with a familiar foe, one that the Celtics have already played twice in the preseason with another four matchups beginning tonight, during the season.
While the Nets are expected to be among the league’s worst teams while the Celtics are predicted to finish near the top of Eastern Conference standings, there’s at least one Celtic who isn’t convinced seeing the Nets so many times is a good thing.
“It’s hard to play teams . . . the more you play them it's like the tougher it is [to win],” Thomas said. “At the same time, they know what we like to do and we know what they like to do. You have to leave it all out there on the floor. Like [coach Brad Stevens) said, ‘Let’s just be us.’ ”
Being themselves more than anything else means delivering a devastating defensive punch, the kind that kept Boston among the NBA’s top defenses a year ago.
The Celtics finished the season with a defensive rating of 100.9 which was the fourth-best in the NBA.
And the mindset among several players is that as good as they were a year ago, the potential of this team defensively is even greater.
One of the keys to that optimism is Al Horford, the longtime Atlanta Hawk who signed a four-year, $113 million contract with the Celtics this summer when he became a free agent.
Horford is a four-time All-Star in part because of his versatility as a defender. Stevens envisions the 6-foot-10 Horford playing both power forward and center depending on the lineup he’s on the floor with at that time.
“He also improves are ability to play big or small,” Stevens said. “You can play him at the four (power forward) and play big, you can play him at the five (center). His mobility defensively and mobility to stretch the floor allows us to do both.”
And to think that as good as the Celtics are now, they are going to be able to add even more talent with a likely top-5 pick next year in the NBA draft courtesy of exercising their option to switch draft positions with the Nets.
Thomas has a lot on his mind heading into tonight’s game.
Increasing Boston’s chances of getting a high first-round pick from Brooklyn next year is not on the list, he says.
“I worry about scoring the ball, getting my teammates involved and winning games,” Thomas said. “I don’t know anything about those first-round picks.”
Thomas, the 60th and final player selected in the 2011 NBA draft added, “And I wasn’t a first-round pick so I don’t care about first-round picks.”