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Game Preview #70: Wolves vs. Celtics

The Minnesota Timberwolves will make a last-ditch effort to safely enter playoff seeding, while the Boston Celtics only have one hurdle left to climb to win the East.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Game Info

Injury Reports



  • Rudy Gobert (left ankle sprain)
  • Naz Reid (left calf soreness)
  • Austin Rivers (back spasms)


  • Jaylen Nowell (knee)
  • Matt Ryan (two-way contract)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)



  • Danilo Gallinari (torn left ACL)
  • Mfiondu Kabangele (two-way contract)
  • Payton Pritchard (left heel pain)
  • Robert Williams III (left hamstring strain)

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

What to Watch For

The Minnesota Timberwolves will take on the Boston Celtics at the Target Center tonight, March 15, 2023. The Timberwolves own a 35-34 record — good for the No. 7 seed in the NBA Western Conference, while the 47-22 Celtics are within 2.5 games of overtaking the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference and winning home court advantage throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Home is where the heart is, and it’s also where the Wolves have went 20-16, consisting of the majority of their overall wins on the year. The Celtics are slightly more potent on the road as the Wolves are at home, boasting a 21-13 road away from Boston. They are tied with the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings for the second-fewest road losses league wide.

Recently, Minnesota secured a pivotal win against the Atlanta Hawks in impressive fashion, giving them a narrow one-game lead over the No. 8 seeded Dallas Mavericks following their concurrent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. They are 5-5 over their last 10 games, just like Boston, who are looking to close out the season strong and make a return to the NBA Finals.

Here are several keys to the game:

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Apply What You Watch in Film When Defending Jayson Tatum

It’s easy to be a backseat driver and know what a player is going to do in certain situations, especially when you have a birds’ eye view on the action. However, incessant study of film does serve a purpose — to make defensive coverages easier on players.

Jayson Tatum is a superstar talent. In small circle conversations, he’s referred to as a hooper. Tatum has a wide variety of tricks stored away in his bag, but his most frequented can oft be seen coming from a mile away. Placing Jaden McDaniels and even Anthony Edwards on Tatum is the first step in standing a chance at slowing down the unquestionable MVP candidate. What comes next is what’s most important.

Tatum loves that sidestep 3-pointer on the right and left wings. When it’s late in the shot clock, or Tatum calls for an iso or he attempts to lull defenders to sleep with his handles, that’s when you can bet that he will likely pull back and launch from deep. What makes him so dangerous is that he can step to either side, so shading him middle or baseline is irrelevant. Playing Tatum up front and getting in his airspace without fouling is the best way to try and bother the 30.3 points per game scorer.

Tatum usually shoots from his hip off the sidestep, or from his chest off the catch. Putting a hand up is bad news Billy for Minnesota defenders, as he is adroit at playing to the refs’ hands and swinging that ball through to draw fouls. Aside from this, Tatum favors driving middle. When he does so, he either gets the step and explodes to the rim, or jumps off of both feet to make a pass to the strong side. Help defenders should be ready for this.

Either way, great players transcend great defense, and his running mate Jaylen Brown is just as crafty a scorer. Therefore, remaining disciplined and knowing the scouting report like the back of their hands will save the Wolves.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Bully the Smaller Celtics in the Paint

Without Robert Williams III manning the middle, all the Celtics have are Al Horford in the starting lineup and Blake Griffin off the bench to control the paint. This should scream easy pickings for a Timberwolves team that loves to get busy down low.

In their last outing against the Hawks, Rudy Gobert was active and aggressive in the post. He will need to bring that same tenacity tonight. Horford is still a very solid defender, but not what he once was, and Gobert has at least three inches in height on him.

Sealing off Horford right outside of the restricted area and demanding the ball is ideal. That way, Gobert will be able to minimize his dribbles, bury his shoulder into Horford’s chest, and rise up for easy hooks, even though that’s not the bread and butter to his game. Whatever Gobert can’t do, Luka Garza has shown a competency in performing throughout the year.

Jaden McDaniels’ offensive game has taken major leaps throughout the season. If he can continue his recent string of performances — 15 or more points scored in five of his last nine, all of which at 50% or greater from the field — he will only add to the offense.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Countering Joe Mazzulla’s Schemes

Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla is a Coach of the Year candidate for a reason. Think not for a second that he won’t opt to trap Anthony Edwards and stagnate the offense. Therefore, featuring a secondary pick-and-roll with Edwards and Kyle Anderson will keep Boston on its toes.

Anderson is among the smartest players in the NBA, and his 4.4/1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio primes him to make good decisions off of the skip pass. Once two defenders are behind him, Anderson should see a temporary four-on-three, giving him the option to showcase his underrated moves in the midrange, or draw help defenders and kick to the open man.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Winning the 3-Point Battle

The Boston Celtics are No. 5 in the NBA shooting 37.7% from beyond the arc. The Timberwolves are No. 17 at 35.9%, and 36.9% in the last 11 games since the arrival of Mike Conley Jr.

The C’s can swing the ball around as good as any team in the NBA. They love to make the extra pass and feature shooters in the corner. Reserves Sam Hauser and Malcolm Brogdon are efficient shooters that can catch fire. The Wolves have their own cast of characters that can stroke the long ball.

Of Boston’s 22 losses, 14 have come when they fail to hit 15 3-pointers. That's the magic number for the T-Wolves. Additionally, they are 13-1 when they hit 20 or more trifectas. Minnesota must execute from deep to stand a chance.