November 6 – The Minnesota Timberwolves have held four of their five opponents below 100 points, but they might face their toughest challenge of the season so far when they play the visiting Boston Celtics on Monday in Minneapolis.
The Celtics are averaging 126.4 points per game, which leads the league, and have scored at least 70 points in the first half of each of their last three games.
Through five games, the Timberwolves have allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA at 99.6. Their opponents are shooting 42.7 percent from the field, and their last two opponents both shot below 40 percent.
“You’re just not going to win much unless you guard,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “I’ve been on teams that try to outscore people and it looks great, but oftentimes you end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. It’s not a lot of fun. You don’t feel like you can ever control the game, even when you’re scoring. We have long athletic guys on the perimeter who can fly around and get into gaps.
“Last year, I don’t think we really found an identity. We just never did. We did a lot of good things. We kind of reinvented ourselves many times along the way, but coming into the season we knew with our lineup that it had to be defense. Big teams should be physical and they should play defense.”
The Timberwolves are coming off Saturday night’s 123-95 victory over Utah. The Jazz shot 38.5 percent from the floor. Minnesota also limited Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to 39.6 percent shooting from the field in a 110-89 win on Wednesday.
Anthony Edwards led the Minnesota offense by scoring 31 points against Utah. Karl-Anthony Towns added 25, and Rudy Gobert finished with 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“We put pressure on the ball, locked in on the 3-point line and Rudy did a great job of protecting the paint,” Edwards said. “We fed off that.”
“It’s a testament to our coaching staff and the players in this locker room putting effort in on the defensive end,” Towns added. “There’s things we could do better, obviously, but it’s good to know that we’re at a point right now, five games in, where we got something flowing. Just got to keep building off it.”
Jayson Tatum is averaging 30.2 points per game to lead the Celtics. He surpassed 10,000 points for his NBA career when he tossed in 32 points during Saturday night’s 124-114 victory over Brooklyn.
Tatum, the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, became the youngest player in the franchise’s history to reach 10,000 career points.
“That’s special. That’s cool,” Tatum said after the game. “I’ve just been blessed to be in a great franchise. I’ve had some great teammates, some great coaches, that have contributed to helping me get 10,000 career points.”
The Celtics played Saturday’s night’s game without guard Derrick White, who missed the contest for the birth of his second child. Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said Saturday that he wasn’t sure if White would be with the team on Monday.
–Field Level Media
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