When the Timberwolves last beat the Celtics in Boston, in March 2005, much of the team was just beginning to dominate its elementary school basketball circuits.
The futility in Boston is something that connects generations of Wolves teams, and it’s something this season’s team continued with a 121-109 loss on Friday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics entered the night having lost five of six, but a date with Wolves was just what they needed to get out of their funk. Despite their struggles, Boston showed why they were a team that made it to the Finals with a 33-23 performance in the fourth quarter that turned a close game into a rout, and showed how far Wolves need to go. to win matches like that on a consistent basis.
The night unfolded as a big regression for Wolves. The same issues that surfaced at the start of the season — shoddy defensive rebounding, allowing points on turnovers, transitional defense — were the main culprits.
“We have to be better in all of those areas,” coach Chris Finch said. “…We’ve been better, but when you move up the weight class like these guys clearly are, it’s all on display.”
Jaylen Brown had 23 of 36 points in the fourth quarter. Jayson Tatum had 30 while the Celtics had 24 quick break points. Boston’s fourth quarter included 12 second-chance points. Rebounding has been the top or near the top of issues for Wolves this season, and it was Friday again.
“We’re not going to take the next step as a team until we bounce the ball better. That’s how it’s going to be,” Finch said. “We’re not physical enough. We can’t find guys. Again, often it’s our wings, it’s our little ones. We have to fight. We have to dig.”
Boston grabbed 20 offensive rebounds in all and had 20 second-chance points. Wolves traded for one of the league’s best rebounders in Rudy Gobert, who had 12. But the problem isn’t Gobert or Wolves’ big men, according to Finch. Where they run into trouble – and goes back to last season – is with their consistently bouncing guards and wings. This shows up specifically on long bounces on jumps.
“It’s not just the heavy lifting, I feel like it’s also on me and the guards,” said Jaden McDaniels, who had 17 points and six rebounds. “There are a lot of long rebounds, so I feel like during practices we do little rebound drills and if we start doing it again we’ll be good.”
It doesn’t help Wolves that some of their rebounding assist is injured – players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyle Anderson and Taurean Prince. Because of this, the schedule dictates the depth of the team. Finch pressed his starters for extra minutes, with Wolves having two days off between games.
Anthony Edwards had 30 points in 40 minutes, McDaniels played 39 while D’Angelo Russell had 21 in 39 minutes. Russell only scored three points after halftime. Wolves also struggled to integrate Gobert into the flow of their attack, an area they were improving before he missed a few games with a sprained ankle.
“We have to find a way to maybe lengthen our rotation here,” Finch said. “I don’t know who it will be. But we’ve had several days off here before we play our next game, so I thought maybe I could push this unit a little deeper, a little deeper.”
Wolves didn’t have much in the fourth quarter due to fatigue or their own inconsistencies.
“We increased our intensity, our physique and everything,” Finch said. “The execution in the fourth quarter, that’s where they really got it.”
The Star Tribune did not send the author of this article to the game. It was written using a broadcast, interviews and other documents.
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