The Boston Celtics (11-14, 6-6 home) host the Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12, 5-8 away) on Monday night at TD Garden. Here's what to watch for:
WOLVES IN SHEEP CLOTHING: Don't let the .500 record deceive you. The Wolves rank in the top half of the league in most major statistical categories, including offensive (12th) and defensive (13th) rating. Minnesota is also a top-10 team on both the offensive (6th) and defensive (9th) glass, and takes excellent care of the ball (4th in team turnover percentage). The Timberwolves have already hammered Boston twice this season (once in the preseason). Said Boston coach Brad Stevens: "I think they’re really good. I’m not going based on records or anything like that. I’m going on the way I’ve felt twice in the building with them. And I think they’re really a good basketball team."
ONE-MONTH CHECKUP: For the Celtics, this is one of those proverbial measuring-stick games. Boston endured a 106-88 loss in Minnesota exactly one month ago this date and, while the team feels like it's made a lot of progress since then, Stevens would like to see it against a talented opponent. "I watched the Minnesota game a month ago and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night because I want to see if it can be an accurate gauge -- if we play well -- of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve improved in that time," said Stevens. Hop HERE to read more on the one-month checkup.
RUN RUN RUN: Minnesota plays at the second-highest pace in the league, averaging a whopping 100.51 possessions per game. By comparison, Boston is 23rd at 94.87 possessions per contest. Transition defense, an area of improvement for Boston in recent weeks, will be tested against Minnesota. "We’re playing the number one team in pace in the league, [so] if you don’t get back and set your defense, you’re in trouble," said Stevens. "They challenge that. It’s easy to even say [get back and get set]... but it’s one thing to be able to do it against those guys. And those guys will put you in a position. I think we’re getting better [at transition defense]. I’m not sold that we’re good enough yet. I think we will continue to get better."
WHAT ELSE?: Celtics forward Kris Humphries, who missed the last two games with a sore right knee, went through practice Sunday and will be available to add depth to Boston's frontcourt. ... The Timberwolves rank last in the league in opponent field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot a robust 47.6 percent against them overall (and 37.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc). ... Boston's 3-point defense should be tested, especially after the Timberwolves hit a season-high 12 triples in Sunday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies. ... As STATS LLC notes: The Timberwolves haven't won in Boston since March 6, 2005 and are seeking their first season series sweep since 1999-2000.