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The Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves met up Sunday night at the TD Garden. The Celtics were coming off a difficult, last-possession loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and they were itching for some payback against a Timberwolves team with only four wins coming into the game. It was a high-scoring affair, but in the end, the balanced attack of the Boston Celtics prevailed, beating Minnesota 122-104.
All season long, this team has been defined by its balance. It’s what makes them such a strong team in the NBA this season. Every time a team shuts down one player, another two or three step up the scoring, making it impossible to successfully defend. We saw more of the same at Sunday’s game. All five Boston starters scored in the double digits, along with Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen off the bench. The Celtics nearly doubled the Timberwolves in terms of assists, racking up 34 to Minnesota’s 18. When Boston is passing this way, they are difficult to defend. If you force them to go inside, they have strong big men who they’ll find for easy buckets. Their perimeter shooting is good enough that if you defend the lay-up they’ll just go outside for the deep two or the three-pointer. Boston made nine three-point shots at this game, proving that they are as dangerous from deep as they are on the inside.
All talk of balance aside, Paul Pierce was the offensive player of the game. The simple reason: he put up 29 points, far and away the most by any player on any team. He was also perfect from beyond the arch, hitting six three-point shots, and perfect from the free-throw line, making all seven free throws. After a few games of playing beneath his abilities, Paul Pierce responded with a fantastic offensive game. With the team shooting less than 52%, he shot over 57%. He carried the load offensively, and yet he did not play selfishly. He simply played a phenomenal game.
It can’t be said that the Celtics played a brilliant defensive game. They gave up 104 points. They lost the turnover battle, 16-12, and they barely won the rebounds battle, 45-41. In a game where Boston held a double-digit lead almost the entire time, it’s understandable for the defense to loosen up a little bit. The Celtics played their bench for a lot of minutes and that went a long way towards the Timberwolves scoring so many points. Yet, the Celtics’ defensive did some things right too. They out-stole Minnesota 7-6, they out-blocked Minnesota 7-5, and they never really allowed Minnesota to get into an offensive rhythm, holding them to 42.2% shooting. Most importantly, they defended the three-pointer well, only allowing four treys. Three-point shooting has been the marker for the defense this year. When they defend the three-pointer, the Celtics tend to win. When they don’t, they tend to lose. Tonight, they defended it well.
TD Garden is an excellent place to catch a basketball game. Even with the snow keeping some of the crowd away, Boston still managed to put up decent attendance at the game Sunday night. As a result, the Garden was nice and loud for most of the game, even when it became clear that a rout was coming. Chants of “defense,” “Scalabrine,” and clapping hands filled the air. People danced in the stairwells. The place erupted with every three-pointer or slam dunk (and there were plenty of both). The Garden gives the Celtics a distinct home-court advantage. Hopefully the place will be even louder come Tuesday’s game against Granger-less Indiana Pacers.