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Game Preview #6: Wolves vs Celtics

After big wins over the Nuggets and Jazz, the Timberwolves have another big test as they welcome Jayson Tatum and the red hot Celtics.

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Anthony Edwards and The Minnesota Timberwolves will keep their four-game homestand rolling on Monday night as they welcome in to Target Center Jayson Tatum, Jrue Holiday, and the NBA’s lone remaining undefeated team — the Boston Celtics.

Game Info

Injury Report

Updated as of 5:30 PM CT Monday:



  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Leonard Miller (G League assignment)
  • Wendell Moore Jr. (G League assignment)



  • Oshae Brissett (left thumb sprain)
  • Kristaps Porziņģis (right eye)


  • JD Davison (two-way contract)
  • Nathan Knight (two-way contract)
  • Neemias Queta (right foot injury management)
  • Jordan Walsh (G League assignment)
  • Derrick White (personal reasons)

What to Watch For

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images
(Editor’s Note: all of this was written on Sunday, before Derrick White was ruled out and Porziņģis was added to the injury report with an eye injury. Some of it has been edited to reflect the news).

A Necessary Test

While we all want to believe that this top-ranked Timberwolves defense is for real, Monday will tell us how high our hopes should be. Not only are the Celtics 5-0 (with three of those wins over Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season) but they own the NBA’s top offensive rating by a healthy margin (125.5), are second in made 3-pointers per game and third in offensive rebound rate (32.6%), and scored a whopping 155 points in regulation against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

Parlaying a good performance against the Denver Nuggets into one against a quietly tanking Utah Jazz team is surely an important step, but not on the same level as trying to do it against a championship contender. The Celtics have five guys who are both capable of scoring 25 on any given night and playing excellent defense as individuals and a collective, as their second-ranked defense (104.7) would suggest.

This one will also answer some other questions we may have at this stage of the season.

  • Can Jaden McDaniels stay out of foul trouble against a bigger, more physical matchup in Tatum?
  • Will Anthony Edwards still deliver a 25+ point scoring night against an elite defender in Jrue Holiday?
  • Can Karl-Anthony Towns put together another good post-up performance against a smaller 4?

No matter how all of this shakes out, we’ll have a much better understanding of how legit the Timberwolves are heading into a stretch of 11 games that feature nine teams likely to be playing some form of postseason basketball.

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Can the Bench Come Through Again?

The Wolves’ first five will have their hands full with the Celtics’ opening unit, which could very well be the league’s best starting lineup. That will create an opportunity for Kyle Anderson, Naz Reid and the Minnesota bench to play a big role yet again.

With Derrick White set to return after missing a game due to the birth of his child, Boston will roll out Al Horford, Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser as their main three bench pieces. Oshae Brissett is generally the team’s ninth man, but played just 11 minutes on Saturday and is questionable for Monday night’s game with a left thumb sprain. Horford, Pritchard and Brissett have all struggled profusely shooting the ball, while Hauser is connecting on 39.1% of his 3-pointers.

Boston’s blended bench lineups with Horford at the 4 and Kristaps Porziņģis have been a disaster, which is good news for a Wolves team that will play big off the bench and likely force the Celtics into keeping those two on the floor together whenever Tatum sits. Now that Porziņģis is seemingly very questionable with an eye injury, Minnesota could see a center rotation of the 6-foot-9 Horford, and 7-foot-1 Luke Kornet, who rarely plays but was effective in their win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. Whether they will play together is yet to be seen, but if the Wolves can get either one in foul trouble, the big lineups could be very effective against a thin front-court.

Anderson and Reid will need to continue their very strong play together (+4.8 net rating in 186 possessions) and hope that Shake Milton — who has struggled in recent years against the Celtics — and Nickeil Alexander-Walker join them, regardless of whether Towns or Rudy Gobert is in there as the center.

If the bench wins their minutes, which they should against a thin and small reserve group for the Celtics, this game will come down to which team can executes better in down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Even if Minnesota doesn’t come away victorious, that will hopefully be good experience they can carry with them as they enter a very tough November schedule.