Game 72: Celtics vs. T-Wolves
|(50-21, 21-13 away)||-- vs. --||(17-56, 12-24 home)|
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Ball Movement: After the Celtics' 83-81 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen all pointed to the Celtics' lack of ball movement as one of the chief reasons they lost the game. Boston's offense was out of sync for practically the entire game, and the C's ended up making just 29-of-71 field goal attempts (40.8 percent). Not helping matters was the Celtics finishing with just 15 assists. Rajon Rondo, who was the driving force behind the Celtics' offense in the opening months of the season, has registered double-digit assists in only four of 13 games in March. Rekindling their love of passing in the first game of a tough four-game swing could go a long way in helping the Celtics get back in the flow of things.
- What's Love Got To Do With It?: Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love is battling a strained left groin muscle and is currently listed as questionable for Sunday's contest. Love's currently leading the league in defensive rebounding percentage (Love is grabbing 34.4 percent of all available rebounds, according to Basketball-Reference.com), and his presence tonight would not bode well for a Boston team that has out-rebounded its opponent in only one of its last six games.
- Get Krstic Going: After beginning his career in Boston with a stretch of promising games, Nenad Krstic's production has dropped steadily in the past few weeks. In his last five games, he's averaging just 5.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and nearly four fouls per game. Making matters worse has been his low shooting percentage in those games. Over his last five, Krstic has shot just 39.1 percent from the field -- not exactly a number you hope to see out of a 7-footer. He's missed a series of easy baskets around the rim in those games, and has appeared frustrated by a lack of calls from the officials. The Celtics should try and establish Krstic's confidence early tonight, to see if they can get his production back on the right track.
In the last few days, the slumping Boston Celtics have bowed out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Another loss could drop them to third place for the first time since the first week of November.
Trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak in nearly a year, the Celtics hope to continue their dominance over a Minnesota Timberwolves team that could have Kevin Love back Sunday night at the Target Center.
Boston (50-21) was tied with Chicago atop the East on Monday but has since lost back-to-back home games to fall behind the Bulls. The Celtics are now just one-half game ahead of third-place Miami, and they would fall from the No. 2 spot Sunday if they lose and the Heat beat Houston. Boston hasn't been in third place since it was 3-1 on Nov. 2.
The Celtics would seemingly have a good chance of remaining in second, having won eight straight over Minnesota (17-56) since a 109-107 loss Feb. 11, 2007 -- back when Kevin Garnett was still on the Timberwolves -- but they've had many close calls.
Four of the last seven meetings have been decided by three points or less, and the Celtics needed to score 19 of the game's final 27 points to beat Minnesota at home 96-93 on Jan. 3.
Love had 24 rebounds in that game but was held to 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting. Minnesota is 1-18 when Love scores 15 or less, including losses the last two games as he sat out with a strained groin, but the league's rebounding leader could return Sunday.
"That's up to our medical staff to determine," coach Kurt Rambis said. "That's up to him to determine, too."
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