Celtics-Timberwolves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 16, 2013
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics might have been considered two of the league's bigger surprises until having their momentum stopped this week. While the Timberwolves will try to bounce back with their fifth win in six home games, the Celtics are hoping to capture their third straight road victory Saturday night. Finally healthy following an injury-riddled 2012-13 season, Minnesota (6-4) has been on a roll offensively as it looks to end the league's longest active playoff drought with its first berth in nine seasons. The Timberwolves opened 5-2 before losing two of three games this week. They nearly rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter Friday, but lost 117-113 at Denver and allowed a season-high point total. Kevin Love finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Kevin Martin scored 27 in his return from a one-game absence because of an illness. "A little bit unlucky," Love said. "It was our defense all game. Our rotations weren't there. We needed to help the helper, ball screen rotations, they were off all night but we were still right there at the end. We feel as if we can get a lot better with this team. It's still mid-November and we're going to get a lot better." Minnesota ranks near the top of the NBA with 108.7 points per game, and has averaged 114.6 while hitting 40.7 percent from 3-point range over its last five. After being limited to 18 games last season because of a broken hand, Love ranks among the league leaders in scoring (27.2), rebounds per game (13.8) and double-doubles (nine). The two-time All-Star has gotten plenty of help from Martin, averaging a career-best 24.9 points while hitting 26 of 50 from beyond the arc. Martin and Love make the Timberwolves the only team with two players among the top seven in the league in scoring. Love has never beaten the Celtics (4-6), having missed three of Minnesota's nine games against them since he entered the league, but the Timberwolves did snap an 11-game slide in the series in the last meeting. With Love sidelined following right hand surgery, Nikola Pekovic scored a game-high 29 in a 110-100 home win April 1. Not much was expected from the Celtics after shipping out leading scorers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn and coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers in the offseason. They opened the season with four straight losses that seemed to confirm expectations that they might compete for a top spot in the draft lottery. But Boston rattled off four wins in a row - including a victory over defending champion Miami - before dropping its second straight in Friday's 109-96 loss to Portland. After holding opponents to 95 points or less in five of their first six games, the Celtics will have to tighten things up defensively after giving up 105 or more in three of their last four. "Every team has a margin for error and not many teams have a big one," rookie coach Brad Stevens said. "We can't take plays off; it's not going to work out well for us on either end of the floor." Jared Sullinger appears to be fine after missing one game due to a bruised knee, finishing with 26 points and eight rebounds against the Trail Blazers. Jeff Green had 14 points while missing 8 of 12 shots after averaging 19.7 on 52.6 percent shooting in his previous three games.
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