By: Dan Slaubaugh
It's been awhile. Six days, to be exact.
A lot has happened since the last time we've visited. The Wolves have gone from 4th place to 7th place to 6th place to 5th place to 7th place to 6th place since they've last played. They're in the middle of a jam-packed dogfight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, which has been way more fun to follow than the tankathon standings but also has been poor for the heart. Tonight, they welcome the Boston Celtics to Target Center for the first and only time this season.
The Celtics, led by head coach Brad Stevens, sit comfortably in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 45-20 and can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight. Just 2.5 games back of 1st place, the top seed is still in reach. With Kyrie Irving running the show at point guard, Al Horford being above-average at basically everything, and the ability to put together super physical and flexible lineups with players like Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, they are one of few teams who have a legitimate chance at a conference title.
What: Wolves vs. Celtics
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
When: 7 PM CT
Where to watch: TNT
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
East struggles: Although life would be much simpler in the East, the truth is the Wolves have struggled versus the opposite conference this season going 10-15 outside of the West. Tonight, they'll be faced with one of the East's premier teams in Boston, a team that has been rolling since the All-Star break winning five of their last six games including three blowout wins.
Uncle Drew: Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who missed Monday's blowout win in Chicago with left knee soreness, will play tonight in Minnesota. Undoubtedly one of the game's elite point guards, Irving has been a game changer for the Celtics and helped carry the load while Gordon Hawyard recovers from injury. With the improved play of Jeff Teague as of late, the point guard battle could be very entertaining tonight.
Cleared heads: Six days recovered from two ejections (Karl-Anthony Towns and Jeff Teague) and the head coach yelling "F*CK YOU, YEAH YOU... THAT"S RIGHT MOTHERF'ER" to an opposing player (Jae Crowder), the Wolves have to come to Target Center with clear heads and laser focus as they fight for their playoff lives without their best player Jimmy Butler. A top-6 seed, which should be the goal to have a chance at winning a playoff series, is still attainable. How the Wolves respond to adversity in the next stretch of games will be a huge factor in where they finish.
Kyrie Irving leads the Celtics with 24.8 points and 5.1 assists per game. He could very well end up in the top-5 in MVP voting.
The Wolves are 9-12 over their past 21 games but are an impressive 15-1 in their past 16 home dates including outright victories as betting underdogs over both Toronto and Cleveland.
The Celtics rank first in defensive rating and 16th in offensive rating.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Nemanja Bjelica, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Boston: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Jaylen Brown, SF Jayson Tatum, PF Aaron Baynes, C Al Horford
Call me crazy, but I think the Wolves win tonight. It's desperation time and the team will play like it.
Minnesota 104, Boston 100.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.