(Written by Michael Pina)
Boston @ Minnesota
Boston: 100.5 points/100 possessions (26th)
Minnesota: 105.2 points/100 possessions (12th)
Boston: 99.4 points allowed/100 possessions (3rd)
Minnesota: 105.0 points allowed/100 possessions (17th)
Probable Minnesota starters: Luke Ridnour (PG), Martell Webster (SG), Wesley Johnson (SF), Derrick Williams (PF), Kevin Love (C)
View From The Opposing Bench: A Wolf Among Wolves
Thumbnail: Since July 31, 2007, the Boston Celtics have faced the Minnesota Timberwolves eight times. July 31st, of course, was the fateful day these two teams participated in one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. Kevin Garnett was shipped to the Celtics for five players and two first-round draft picks. Of that package, Wayne Ellington (existing as one of the draft picks) is the only player linked to that deal currently playing in Minnesota. In those eight meetings, the Celtics have yet to lose.
But the Timberwolves team Garnett and Co. will face tonight is unlike any they’ve seen these past few years. This year’s squad has a different aura about them. They’re the organization’s most competitive group since Garnett was their star, and, despite a season-ending torn ACL suffered by Ricky Rubio, they continue to survive in the Western Conference’s ridiculously tight playoff race—currently 2.5 games back of 7th seeded Utah.
The difference lies in a single player. The league’s best pure rebounder, power forward, and, possibly, most valuable player if the Timberwolves make the playoffs. Of course I’m referring to Kevin Love, and as one of Boston’s greatest weaknesses this season has been rebounding (they currently boast a league worst -7.81 net offensive rebound rate), he could pose a major problem. If Love’s frontcourt teammates were healthy—most notably the revelation that is Nikola Pekovic—he would most likely be matched up against Brandon Bass. Instead, as he plays out of position at the five, tonight he gets Kevin Garnett. It’s surely the game’s most intriguing matchup; one that could hold the key in deciding which team comes out on top.
Prediction: Celtics 99, Timberwolves 96