Rajon Rondo, the Celtic reserves, a double double and a key play by Kevin Garnett resulting in a jump ball helped the lethargic Celtics stay undefeated. This game was much too close.
For a team bent on setting records, the second game of a ‘back-to-back’ against a bottom rung team can still be a killer. The Celtics seemed to be sleep walking, or stuck in mud, and never really gained control of this game. They played from behind for much of it.
Rajon Rondo led the Celtics in scoring with 18 points, most of them on unguarded lay ups. Kurt Rambis brought to Minnesota the Lakers’ version of how to play the Celtics – leave Rondo open to guard other players.
The quarter the Timberwolves used that strategy the most, the third quarter, Rondo scored 14 points and the Celtics won the quarter 31-23.
For the second straight game, the Celtics reserve players played well. This time they truly helped get the win. Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams and Ray Allen brought the Celtics back and tied the game at one point. Marquis Daniels looked good and was making some nifty passes. Daniels had three assists and two were to Shelden Williams, who is proving he can hit the open jumper and plays pretty well in the paint.
When someone named Oleksiy Pecherov leads all scorers with a career high 25 points, on 9-14 shooting it tells you something. That he did it against Kevin Garnett, the league’s perennial nightmare to score against, you know something is slightly askew. KG and the rest of the team just were not themselves in this contest. Thank goodness….errr….Danny…..for the reserves.
Save the Celtics’ newest multi-millionaire, Rajon Rondo, the lethargic starters had all the life and rhythm of the zombies from Night of the Living Dead. Everyone had to dig down to come up with just enough effort to pull this one out. It was undecided until the final seconds. The Celtics biggest lead of the night was 4 points. They trailed by as much as ten points.
Rasheed Wallace did his thing and managed to get a technical while sitting on the bench.
Long Distance Power Outage
Ray Allen was 1of 7 from the arc. Previously unstoppable (56%) from downtown, Paul Pierce took just one three pointer…and missed it. Rasheed Wallace played well off the bench, but also could not find the range from the three point line, going 2 for 7. The Celtics made only 5 of 19 from the arc, after making almost 50% to lead the NBA coming in.
All five starters on each team scored in double figures….and no one else did.
Al Jefferson led all scorers at the half with 13 points, while his former co-hort and current counterpart on the Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, had 10 first half points on 5 of 6 shooting. He finished with 13. Jefferson finished with 18.
A young Minnesota club, in the bottom 6 of NBA teams in shooting percentage at 41.8% coming in, shot 52% against the league’s best defense. The Celtics were holding teams to 38% before this game.
Celtics won a game that never should have been this close. It is these kinds of games that are dangerous because the talent level is so disparate. It is hard for a team that is clicking like the Celtics are, to get up for a game like this. Even returning to the city and state where Garnett played for most of his career was not enough to generate the motivation needed to put this game away early.
Because of that, the Celtics struggled through out the evening. Ultimately, they fought back just in time to barely pull it out.
The Wolves led at the half 49-41, and had their last lead at 88-87 on a Pecherov lay up with 4:37 left in the game. The Celtics took the lead for good on two assists by Kevin Garnett. One was for a Rondo lay up, the other for a Perkins layup, After Perkins made 1 of 2 foul shots, Pecherov made yet another jumper to make it 92-90 with 1:14 left.
Jump Ball Helps Keep Celtics Undefeated
After Rondo, Pierce, and Ryan Gomes all missed shots, Corey Brewer had the ball and was about to shoot when Garnett got his hand in for a jump ball with 3.6 seconds left. On the jump ball, he and Brewer both tapped the ball back. It was going to Jonny Flynn when Rondo jumped and tapped it back further before it went out of bounds with .9 seconds left. Perkins blocked an Al Jefferson attempt with .3 seconds left. The Timberwolves fans booed as the game ended, as they thought that Garnett fouled Brewer on the jump ball call.
Pecherov, who was having a very good game, scored 10 fourth quarter points to almost gain a win for the Wolves who were just 1-3 coming in. Previously unheralded Pecherov played the last two seasons with the Washington Wizards.
The Celtics just never put out the energy defensively, got untracked offensively, and the Wolves took full advantage. Besides Minnesota’s high shooting accuracy, even without their best rebounder Kevin Love, they out rebounded the Celtics 40-36.
Rookie Timberwolves’ point guard Jonny Flynn showed flashes of talent and had 10 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Al Jefferson demonstrated his mid range jump shot from 15 feet a few times.
The Celtics were flatter than a day old open can of soda. Luckily they managed to eke out the win and come home for a Friday night game against the Phoenix Suns.
They are in the midst of a 5 games in 7 days run.