--WEST GETS CAST REMOVED, ENTERS NEXT PHASE OF REHAB--
Inspired by having the cast removed from his fractured right wrist Monday, Celtics guard Delonte West toyed with the idea of putting on his No. 13 jersey in the locker room for the light workout he engaged in as Boston made a late-game charge to top the Timberwolves.
"This is good for my morale," said West, stroking his cast-free right wrist for the first time since the injury occurred while crashing to the floor following a layup against the New Jersey Nets on Nov. 24. "Just to look at it and not see the cast. I was tempted to put my jersey on today. I had my shorts on back here, got a little workout in.
"The day will be here before we know it and I'll be right back out there on the floor."
West doesn't have a firm timetable for his return, but admitted the All-Star break in late February is a good target. The cast gone, West suggested he'll start three weeks of rehabilitation to regain his range of motion before trying to get back on the court for basketball activities to ramp up to his return to game action.
"It feels stiff," said West. "It’s not painful. I got great news from the doctors today. They said maybe three weeks of rehabilitation, then I can start working out, conditioning and ball-handling. Fortunately, I’m left-handed anyway, so I'm able to get shots up with my left hand. It’s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one."
West, who sat out the first 10 games of the 2010-11 season because of a suspension, played in only five games before the injury, averaging 6.8 points, 2 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics have missed his combo guard skills, particularly with point guard Rajon Rondo nursing hamstring, foot and ankle injuries.
"I can’t wait to get out there. It's killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sideline," said West. "We all have a position to play and I know mine is getting healthy, getting back ready to contribute."
The injury hasn't taken away from West's sense of humor. Asked about the relief of shedding the cast, West said it extended well beyond basketball.
"Oh, it feels great," he said. "I finally got a chance to wash it today. The smell of Cheetos is gone."
--IT WAS A LOVE-FEST ON GLASS FOR TIMBERWOLVES--
The Celtics were well aware of what Minnesota's Kevin Love could do on the glass. Like the rest of the league, they found out there's little opponents can do to stop him.
Love became only the fifth player in the past 25 years to register at least 24 rebounds against the Celtics in a game, joining an elite crew of Ben Wallace (28, Feb. 24, 2002), Charles Barkley (27, Dec. 4, 1996), Shaquille O'Neal (24, Feb. 15, 1994) and Dennis Rodman (25, March 20, 1992).
Love's dominance on the glass made him the C's most talked-about opponent in a season that has seen few stars suit up in Boston (the likes of Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Denver's Carmelo Anthony have been sidelined for Garden visits). The 22-year-old Love, who came into the game averaging a league-leading 15.3 caroms per game, added 12 points over 44:20 (connecting on a mere 3-of-11 shots).
He chewed up glass and spit it at Boston. Love hauled in 10 rebounds in the first quarter, established a new season high for a Celtics opponent's rebounds (17) within the first moments of the second half (the previous high was 16 by Toronto's Reggie Evans on Nov. 21), and slowed only a bit in a second half in which Boston did a better job of putting a body on him.
"He’s tenacious," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It was a Love-fest. Love’s terrific. He’s tenacious, but it hurt having [Glen Davis] in foul trouble, obviously, because we wanted his big body on Love’s big body. But, hell, I think he had 10 [rebounds] in the first quarter, if I’m not mistaken. He gets a ton of them. The five offensive rebounds are the ones to me that stood out more. The defensive rebounds, someone’s going to get the defensive rebounds; those aren’t a big deal to me. But the offensive rebounds are the ones that he hurts you on.”
The Timberwolves generated 17 second-chance points off 13 offensive rebounds (this after Boston gave up 19 offensive rebounds for 19 second-chance points against Toronto on Sunday). The Celtics were able to overcame those extra efforts again, and Love drew praise in the Boston locker room for his efforts, including from the not-so-easily-impressed Shaq, who simply called Love a "great rebounder."
--LOOSE BALLS: PIERCE'S ANKLE; J.O.'S TECH; BENCH'S SPARK--
* Celtics captain Paul Pierce sprained his right ankle in Sunday's win over the Raptors, but played through slight discomfort Monday while scoring a game-high 23 points over a team-high 37 minutes. "I was a little stiff, slow," Pierce said. "But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I'm just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’t see any problems coming up.”
* While Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis accepted a slight moral victory with his team staying competitive against a championship-caliber (yet injury-depleted) Boston squad, Love didn't see much of a silver lining. "No, we’re beyond that now. We have been up on good teams. You can say the same thing about San Antonio. We don’t really look at that now. We just have to [close out] down the stretch."
* Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal earned his first technical foul of the season for a little dust-up with Nikola Pekovic with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter. Arms got tangled as the two positioned for a rebound and O'Neal got tagged with the tech for being overemphatic while trying to separate from Pekovic.
* Rivers again praised his bench for providing a spark when Boston needed one. "It felt like, for three quarters, [the Timberwolves] had the ball in their hands. And then we had our little 18 seconds with the ball and that was it," said Rivers. "In the fourth quarter, that changed. It changed when our energy -- I’ve got to tell you, I thought Von Wafer, the last couple of games but tonight in particular, and [Jermaine O’Neal] and Nate [Robinson] as well [played great]. The scoring wasn’t great at times, but I thought their defensive energy really changed the game in my opinion. [Rookie forward] Luke [Harangody], too. You put Luke on Love, and he did a pretty good job on him. So it’s amazing how, when everybody’s not playing great, somebody else kind of steps forward and helps you win. I thought tonight was a great example of that."