AP Photo/Genevieve Ross
Paul Pierce and the Celtics meet Kevin Love and the Timberwolves on Wednesday.The Boston Celtics (9-8, 5-4 home) host the Minnesota Timberwolves (8-8, 4-5 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS: With Kevin Love back on the floor for the Wolves, the focus on this game will most assuredly be on the glass. As Celtics coach Doc Rivers explained on Tuesday, "[Minnesota is] challenging because their strength is our weakness. They are not a good rebounding team, they are an amazing rebounding team. Kevin Love's one of the best rebounders of our era. I know that’s saying something early on in his career, but he is." Rivers got to see a heavy dose of Love at the Olympics and came away marveling at his ability to change the game with his rebounding alone. Concluded Rivers, "They make it difficult for us."
* RONDO'S FOCUS JUMPS FROM 46 TO 48: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will be back on the floor after serving a two-game suspension. A dust-up with the Nets' Kris Humphries last week snapped his 37-game double-digit assist streak, leaving him tied with Utah's John Stockton for the second-longest run in league history. So instead of eyeing Magic Johnson's record 46-game stretch, Rondo's singular focus is now on getting Boston to put together a complete-game effort. "We've got to play together for 48 minutes," said Rondo. "We've been playing together well for 20 minute here, maybe a quarter or a half there. But even when I was out, the team played great in short periods of spans, but we've got to put it together for 48 minutes and it's going to take an entire-team effort."
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: With point guard Ricky Rubio on the mend, the Timberwolves have been a somewhat atrocious offensive team. Minnesota ranks in the the bottom third of the league in points per play (0.875, 25th, according to Synergy Sports data), offensive rating (97.6, 21st), pace (96.1, 22nd), and turnover percentage (16.6, 23rd). Yes, Minnesota can dominate on the glass, but it doesn't always cash in on those second-chance opportunities. It's their defense which, aided by strong rebounding, thrives in limiting opponent scoring opportunities. Minnesota ranks seventh in the league in overall defense (0.885 points per play) and it bumps up to fourth best in the league in halfcout sets. The Wolves are susceptible to cutters, but are otherwise fairly stout, with Nikola Pekovic spearheading a better-than-you-think defense.
* STEAMBOAT RETURNS TO BOSTON HARBOR: The cap-strapped Celtics didn't have the resources to match Minnesota's modest two-year, $5.3 million offer to second-year center Greg Stiemsma this offseason. Stiemsma, who emerged from the D-League to be a top frontcourt reserve last season in Boston, is averaging 3.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks over 12.5 minutes per game with the Wolves. Minnesota's frontcourt depth has limited Stiemsma's floor time, but he's been effective in small doses. Just look at Tuesday's win over the 76ers: Stiemsma chipped in 6 points on 2-of-2 shooting with five rebounds, an assist, a block, and a steal over 18 minutes. The Celtics most assuredly miss his young defensive-minded 7-foot frame off the bench.