Preview: Timberwolves at Celtics, Game 33
|01.03.11 at 11:24 am ET|
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a bad team. This comes as no surprise to even the most casual NBA fan. Since trading Kevin Garnett, the T-Wolves have won 70 games and lost 210. That’s losing three out of every four games for 3+ seasons. They don’t defend, they don’t shoot very well and they turn it over way too much. That’s pretty much the formula for bad in the NBA.
They are also knee-deep in one of the most convoluted rebuilding projects in recent memory.
It started when they traded Garnett, acquiring a package of players that included Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair. All of those players have been traded (although they did bring Telfair back where he continues to be a mediocre backup). They also got back their first round pick from the Celtics, which turned out to be Jonny Flynn, a shoot-first point guard who can’t shoot, and acquired the Celtics pick, which became Wayne Ellington, a scorer who can’t score.
General manager David Kahn didn’t make the Garnett trade, but he did run the draft where he also took Ricky Rubio, who has yet to play a second in the NBA, and yet another point guard in Ty Lawson, who he traded to Denver. Lawson has become an integral part of the Nuggets, the eventual replacement for Chauncey Billups and is a far better prospect than Flynn. (Rubio remains a dream).
This past year, Kahn drafted 23-year-old Wesley Johnson, ancient for a draft prospect, and passed over the talented, but enigmatic, DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 11 points and eight rebounds along with his various misdeeds and histrionics. Johnson is a wing player, so naturally Kahn traded for another young wing player in Martell Webster, who thankfully can shoot, but has missed all but nine games with injuries.
For good measure, Kahn gave Darko Millicic a contract extension, leading to this fantastic exchange between Kahn and Chris Webber.
Kahn still wasn’t done. He dumped Jefferson for a player named Kostas Koufos, which made people laugh, but it might have been the best move of his tenure because he shed a big contract on a player with bad knees and opened a spot for Michael Beasley, obtained from the Miami Heat during their contract firesale. Beasley has regained his game after a lost season in Miami and is averaging 22 points and six rebounds a game. Trading Jefferson also allowed Kevin Love to blossom into a full-blown star.
And he signed another point guard in Luke Ridnour, which has turned out to be a good thing because Flynn started the year on the injured list and has struggled in his return.
Against all odds, this bunch has become one of the weirdest, and most fun teams of the lower depths of the NBA. Part of that is Love, who pulled down an amazing 33 boards in a game. Then there’s Beasley, whose hair demands its own reality show, and the fact that they play at the fastest pace in the league. They have become, along with the Warriors and the Blake Griffin-Clippers a League Pass cult favorite. But they’re still a hot mess.
TIMBERWOLVES (9-25, 3-7 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 105.3 (Points per 100 possessions, 18th)
Defensive Rating: 111.3 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 29th)
Pace: 97.6 (Possessions per game, 1st)
Likely Starters: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Millicic
Injuries: Jonny Flynn (Ankle, questionable), Anthony Tolliver (Knee, out).
CELTICS (25-7,7-3 last 10 games)
Offensive Rating: 107.7 (11th)
Defensive Rating: 98.9 (1st)
Pace: 90.8 (23rd)
KEY MATCHUP: Glen Davis vs. Kevin Love
In the 2008 draft, then-GM Kevin McHale swapped picks with Memphis to obtain Love for the rights to O.J. Mayo. There was some talk last season that this was yet another Minnesota screw-up, but there’s no question who got the better end of this transaction. Love is one of the best rebounders in the league, maybe the best, and his offensive game is rounding into shape. If there is any justice, the NBA will find a way to put Love on the All-Star team, even in the stacked Western Conference.
All of which is to say that Glen Davis will have his hands full with Love. Davis shook off a rough first half against Toronto to finish with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. He’ll have to be good for all 36 minutes against Love.
1. How will Rajon Rondo hold up on the second night of a back-to-back?
Doc Rivers didn’t think Rondo was going to play until about an hour before Sunday’s game, which raises the inevitable question: Was he actually ready to play? Rondo looked predictably rusty, but did flash his athleticism on a couple of plays. He also had his left ankle stepped on inadvertently by Linas Kleiza, which led to some anxious moments.
There’s a game Wednesday against the Spurs, another Friday against Toronto and then a quick trip to Chicago on Saturday so Rondo won’t have much time to recuperate.
2. Will the Celtics be able to slow the Timberwolves down?
Minnesota plays at the fastest tempo in the league, while the Celtics play much slower. There have been times when the Celtics have tried to run with faster teams, and there is no question they enjoy these kinds of games in the regular season. They should be careful not to get too caught up in Minnesota’s pace and let the Timberwolves hang around in the process.
3. How is Paul Pierce?
Pierce rolled his ankle late in the game against the Raptors after a late-game uncontested dunk. The Celtics don’t think it will be serious, but that was before their flight. The last thing they need is a lingering ankle injury affecting Pierce.