Celtics visit KG's old stomping grounds

Boston Celtics (28-22) at Minnesota Timberwolves (25-27)
Friday, March 30
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #51,  Road Game #25
Target Center
Referees:  Jason Phillips,  Brent Barnacky, David Jones 

This is the first and only game between these two franchises.  Both teams are fighting for playoff position and both teams have been battling injuries as they try to make their move toward the post season. 

The Celtics are sitting seventh in the East and are tied with Philly for the division lead which would vault them into the 4th spot.  The Sixers are playing the Wizards on Friday and so the Celtics need to win this one if they want to keep pace.   The Celtics are also just 1 game behind Atlanta  for the 6th spot and they are 2.5 games ahead of the Knicks for 8th.  The Knicks and Hawks play each other on Friday. 

The Wolves are in the 11th spot in the West, but they are just 2.5 games back of the 8th spot.   The bottom of the Western conference is bunched up with Denver, Utah and Houston tied for the 7th and 8th spots spot 2.5 games ahead of Minnesota.  Phoenix sits 1/2 a game in front of Minnesota in 10th spot. 

The Celtics have won their last 3 games and the Wolves are coming off a win over the Bobcats and are looking for their second straight win.  The Celtics have won the last 9 meetings between these two teams.  The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Wolves are 6-4.  The Wolves are 13-12 at home while the Celtics are 10-14 on the road. 

The Celtics need to win this to keep pace with the Sixers, who are almost certain to beat the tanking Wizards who played the night before. The Wolves depend on Kevin Love's big numbers and if the Celtics can slow him down, they have a good chance in this one.

Probable Starters

Probable Starters
PG:   Rajon Rondo 12.6 PPG  10.7 APG 1.8 SPG
SG:   Ray Allen 14.6 PPG  2.5 APG  .459 3P%
SF:    Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG  5.1 RPG  4.9 APG
PF:    Brandon Bass 13.3 PPG  6.5 RPG  1.1 BPG 
C:     Kevin Garnett 15.4 PPG  8.1 RPG  1.1 BPG 

Celtics Reserves

Marquis Daniels
Greg Stiemsma
Sasha Pavlovic
Ryan Hollins
Keyon Dooling
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) doubtful
Ray Allen (ankle) game time decision 
Greg Stiemsma (feet, thumb) probable 

Probable Starters
PG: Luke Ridnour  11.8 PPG 4.6 APG 1.0 SPG
SG:  Martell Webster  7.0 PPG 0.7 APG  .342 3P%
SF:    Wesley Johnson   5.9 PPG 2.8 RPG 0.8 APG
PF:  Derrick Williams   8.8 PPG  4.9 RPG  0.4 BPG
C:   Kevin Love   26.6 PPG 13.9 RPG 0.5 BPG

Wolves Bench
Anthony Tolliver
Malcolm Lee
Darko Milicic
Brad Miller
Anthony Randolph


JJ Barea (thigh) day to day
Michael Beasley (toe) questionable
Nikola Pekovic (ankle) day to day
Ricky Rubio (knee) out
Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett vs Kevin Love
Kevin Love is a very impressive player.  He is averaging 31.3 points per game in March.  He pulls down and obscene number of rebounds night in and night out, and he shoots the 3 well enough to win the 3 point contest.  KG is going to have his hands full trying to keep Love off his game.  But if anyone can do it, it's KG.  Love is averaging just over 10 ppg against the Celtics, his lowest average against any team in the NBA.

Rajon Rondo vs Luke Ridnour
Rondo should have a speed advantage over Ridnour.  Rondo has been playing very well and will need to set the pace in the game and keep the ball moving.  As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.   We'll have to wait for next year for the Rondo/ Rubio matchup. 

Honorable Mention
Paul Pierce vs Wesley Johnson  
Pierce has been on a roll and is stepping up his game as the Celtics move toward the playoffs.  Hopefully he will keep being aggressive and go to the basket and if he does, he should have another big night.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics must defend.  They've been playing defense in spurts and that just isn't enough.  They have struggled to get stops against teams like the Bobcats and that isn't good.  The offense feeds off of the defense and if the Celtics can't get stops they struggle on the other end as well. Minnesota is 5th in scoring (98.9 ppg).  The Celtics are 27th (91.4 ppg).  The Celtics won't win if they try to outscore the Wolves. They have to play tough defense.

Rebound - The Celtics must get rebounds to prevent second chance points and fast breaks.   Rebounding takes effort and desire and the Celtics have got to show both and crash the boards as a team.  The Wolves rank 3rd in the league in rebounding, pulling down 44.6 per game.  The Celtics are still last, grabbing just 38.2 rebounds per game.   The Celtics must be aggressive on the boards or it may get ugly.  

Play 48 Minutes - the Celtics have gotten off to a good start in recent games but then they relax and give up a big lead, as they did against the Bobcats and the Jazz in their last 2 games They have to give a solid effort for 48 minutes. They have to eliminate those stretches they have had in recent games where they turn the ball over and go on scoring droughts.

5. Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be aggressive in going after loose balls and rebounds and in taking the ball to the basket.  They also have to be aggressive on defense.  When they are aggressive in going to the hoop good things happen.   They must be the more aggressive team and they have to stop depending on jumpers, especially when the jumpers aren't falling.

Official Report
Jason Phillips
Phillips has officiated 716 regular season games and 19 playoff games since joining the NBA officiating staff 12 seasons ago. He officiated his first two Finals games during the 2010-11 season. In addition, Phillips has six seasons of experience officiating in the CBA, working the 1999 CBA Finals. He also officiated three seasons in the WNBA, working the 1999 WNBA Finals. Phillips spent five years officiating at the high school level in his home state of Texas. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and they are 5-5 over their last 10 games with Phillips as a ref. The loss this season was to Chicago where the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 21 for the Bulls. One win, Charlotte shot 20 free throws to 8 for the Celtics and another win was against Cleveland where the Cavs shot 25 free throws to 14 for the Celtics and the refs let the Cavs hack and trip all night with no calls. The 3rd win was against the Clippers where the Celtics shot 27 free throws to 21 for LA. It was Phillips and crew that got Tommy to swear on the air last season about the refs falling for all the blank blank flops. The Wolves are 0-1 this season and 0-10 with Phillips over their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 20-18.

Brent Barnaky
Barnaky enters his second NBA season having officiated 60 NBA games. Barnaky came to the NBA with 10 years of collegiate officiating experience, including three years of N.I.T. Tournament play. He officiated the 2008, 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Playoffs, and the 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Finals. He entered the NBA last season as one of five refs chosen from the D-League to officiate a handful of games the previous season. Barnaky also has spent time training and developing other officials at referee camps. He has only officiated 6 games for the Celtics previously, 2 wins and 4 losses. Celtics are 0-3 this season with Barnaky. The first loss was the 79-71 loss to the Suns where the Suns took 16 free throws to 9 for the Celtics. The second loss was to the Pistons that Tommy Heinsohn called the worst officiated game all season. Rondo was ejected and the Pistons shot 46 free throws to 15 for the Celtics. The 3rd loss was at Philly where they pretty much let them play, calling 14 fouls on the Celtics and 13 on the Sixers. He has called 9 Wolves games, 3 wins and 6 losses. His home W/L record this season is 22-10.

David Jones
David Jones has officiated 1,335 regular season games and 40 playoff games throughout his 22 seasons as an NBA official. In addition, Jones officiated both the men’s and women’s 2000 Olympic Bronze Medal Games. Jones has eight years of collegiate officiating experience. He was one of the refs who helped to train Tim Donaghy and was very outspoken in condemning Donaghy's actions and felt that Donaghy's actions took the "ethics and integrity of the profession and threw them out the window." I guess he hasn't looked very hard at the current crop of refs that also lacks ethics and integrity. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Jones. In the first win against Orlando, the Celtics shot 19 free throws compared to 31 for the Magic. In the second win, the Celtics shot 12 free throws to 18 for the Raptors. The Wolves are 1-2 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 games with Jones officiating. His home W/L record this season is 22-16.

Road Game and Injuries
The Celtics are back on the road after just one game at home.  They have been playing very well at home and they need to keep their focus and not get side tracked by the officiating if it goes in favor of the home team.  Also, both teams have been battling injuries and getting players back from injuries may give the team a boost.