Tonight’s match-up between the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves is not your average contest between near-.500 teams. Despite entering play with unimpressive records of 12-10 and 11-11 and a fair amount of general turmoil surrounding their performances thus far this season, the two teams will clash tonight in arguably the best stretches of their respective campaigns.
For their part, the Celtics are showing exceptionally encouraging signs of life. A relatively slow week of basketball has proven to be exactly what the doctor ordered. On Monday, they downed the playoff-hopeful New Orleans Pelicans (with a healthy Anthony Davis) by 17 points, and followed it up with a resounding 33-point victory over the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. The two games were arguably the team’s most complete two-way victories of the season, and they’ll carry that momentum into tonight’s second game of the current back-to-back.
Leaving Minnesota with a win will be an unexpectedly difficult task, however. Mercifully drama-free for the first time this season, the Timberwolves have surged to a 7-2 record since shipping Jimmy Butler away to Philadelphia. In that stretch, they’re winners of four straight, including victories over the playoff-hopeful Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs, while fending off the chippy Brooklyn Nets twice and losing to the formidable Denver Nuggets by just two points.
The Wolves’ resurgence has been driven, at least in part, by two familiar faces for the Celtics and their fans: former 76ers Robert Covington and Dario Saric, acquired in the Butler trade. Covington has slotted comfortably into Minnesota’s starting lineup, recording 35 minutes per game in his first eight appearances with the team, and during that time, he’s nailed 40% of his threes and piled up 2.75 steals per game. Saric, meanwhile, has scored over 10 points per game in his new role off the bench and snagging six rebounds (two offensive) per night.
Foremost among Minnesota’s concerns these days, however, is forward Andrew Wiggins, the former top overall pick acquired from Cleveland in exchange for Kevin Love. Wiggins’ first four seasons in the NBA have been something of a mixed bag; he’s averaged as many as 23 points per game in a season, but has never been particularly efficient, and despite his athletic prowess, he’s failed to impact the game as a defender at any stage. Now, he’s shooting a pitiful 37% from the field, including a near-unimaginable 17-of-67 across his last five games.
Al Horford is expected to make his return to the Celtics’ lineup, while a return for the ailing Jaylen Brown — whether as a starter or as a bench player — does not appear to be out of the question. After tonight, the Celtics will endure another (fairly unfortunately) long layoff, returning to action against the New York Knicks this coming Thursday, December 6.
SG – Marcus Smart – Andrew Wiggins
SF – Jayson Tatum – Robert Covington
C – Al Horford – Karl-Anthony Towns
Boston – Jaylen Brown (Lower back)
Minnesota – None
How to Watch
Time – 8:00 PM EST
TV – NBA TV