Halftime stars, studs and duds: Towns leading Timberwolves, but Celtics keep it close

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Towns leading Timberwolves, but Celtics keep it close

BOSTON – When you’ve knocked off Golden State, chopped down the Los Angeles Clippers and left the Utah Jazz humming, ‘how did we get smashed by 27 points in our own building?’ you can understand why confidence is fairly high these days for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Their confidence is backed up by some seriously strong play which the Celtics found out first-hand as the first half ended with the Timberwolves ahead 60-58.

Boston trailed 56-49 in the second, but managed to close out the half with a 9-4 spurt. Boston had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but Jae Crowder’s shot was off the mark.

The Timberwolves have been one of the hottest teams since the all-star break, getting strong play at both ends of the floor.

Leading the way for them is Karl-Anthony Towns whose strong scoring, defense and passing makes him an extremely difficult cover for the Celtics.

But Boston’s Al Horford has been solid for the most part against Towns who ranks among the better young big men in the NBA.

But the Timberwolves are more than just the K.A.T. show.

Andrew Wiggins has steadily improved at both ends of the floor, and point guard Ricky Rubio has been playing some of his best basketball ever this season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics remained within striking distance most of the firt half with Thomas and Horford leading the way with 19 and 10 points, respectively.

Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk provided a nice spark with six and five points, respectively.

But they’ll need more at both ends of the floor if they are to continue their dominance at home against the Timberwolves, a streak that now stands at 10 straight victories.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday night’s game between Boston and Minnesota.



Karl-Anthony Towns

He has been one of the NBA’s best players since the All-Star break, and the first half of Wednesday’s game against Boston was no exception. He has 13 points and five rebounds at the half.

Isaiah Thomas

Even though he had 19 points and did so on 5-for-7 shooting, his scoring didn’t seem to have the dominant, difference-making, high impact that we’ve come to expect from him and the Celtics when he has really high scoring first halves like the one he had tonight.



Ricky Rubio

Statistically speaking he’s the worst shooter in the NBA (his 37.4 percent career shooting mark is the worst among active players), but you wouldn’t have known it by the way he was scoring on Wednesday night. He had 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting with five assists.

Al Horford

He’s contributing in a big way in keeping the Celtics within striking distance. At the half he has 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.



Celtics defense

The Chicago blowout on Sunday looks like it was the exception and not the rule defensively for the Celtics. Boston allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 51.1 percent from the field.

Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

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Rozier gets a big test tonight against Thunder

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has stepped up his game this season. There’s no disputing that point. 
And the Celtics have rewarded him with increased playing time, which he has proven he deserves. 
While he has made the most of his opportunity with an increased role due to injuries, at some point Rozier’s minutes should go back to being 20 or so per game. 
It’s amazing how far Rozier has come in such a short period of time, from a first-round pick many questioned as being a reach on Boston’s part, to an integral part of the team’s quest towards Banner 18.
And it is games like tonight’s against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will put the experience gained by Rozier as a major contributor, to the ultimate test when he faces off against reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook.
No one expects Rozier to put up Westbrook-like numbers . . . but would anyone be shocked if he did?
Remember, Rozier’s first NBA start came this season and he racked up his first career triple-double. The next game out, he dropped a career-high 31 points. 
But as we get deeper into the season, he’s no longer viewed as a backup or a role player, They see him as a player that has to be accounted for, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. 
“There’s a lot of teams in this league you could easily see him starting for,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston via text. “He’s not Kyrie [Irving] obviously, and he’s a different kind of player than Marcus [Smart], but he can play. If teams didn’t know it before, they know it now.”
Rozier may not be a secret anymore, but here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics go for the season sweep against the Oklahoma City Thunder. 


If the Celts expect to win tonight, they better get it done in four quarters of play. Because overtime has been a good time for the Thunder. They come into tonight’s game with a 3-0 record in overtime this season. They are one of eight teams with an unblemished overtime record, and no other team in the league this season has as more wins (3) in overtime without a single defeat. 


The NBA hit Marcus Morris up for $15,000 following “verbal abuse of a game official” at the end of Boston’s 108-89 loss at New Orleans.  Morris will be lighter in the wallet, obviously. But it also might get him even more fired up tonight which could lead to him lighting up the Thunder. 


Scoring around the basket has not been a strength of the Celtics, but with key players on the perimeter hurt, Boston has to generate points in other ways. Doing so against the Thunder, a team that has allowed 43.1 points in the paint per game --10th-fewest allowed in the league this season -- will be a challenge.


At some point tonight, Boston will be challenged to get back on defense and not allow Russell Westbrook to score on the break. The Celtics have been one of the league’s better transition defense teams in allowing 10.2 fast-break points, which is the fourth-fewest allowed per game this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder average 14.1 fast-break points, which ranks third in the league. 


The Celtic players talk all the time about how great the TD Garden crowd can be. But at the end of games lately, they haven’t let them much to cheer about. The C's come into tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with losses in five of their last seven home games with the lone wins coming over Memphis and Charlotte – two teams currently out of playoff seeding. Boston’s last home win over a team that’s currently in the top 8 was a 97-96 win over Portland on Feb. 4, a game in which Al Horford hit a game-winning, fadeaway jumper as time expired.


Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

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Report: Kyrie Irving may need screws removed from knee

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving is reportedly going to get a second opinion on his sore left knee which may result in him having season-ending surgery.

98.5 The Sports Hub’s Tony Massarotti reported on Tuesday that Irving will get a second opinion as early as Wednesday.

Irving suffered a fractured left knee cap during the 2015 NBA Finals.

He underwent surgery that sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs.

The surgical procedure performed on his knee involved the insertion of screws to aid the stabilization of the  kneecap.

The Celtics have already been ravaged by injuries this season. They lost Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season due to a left ankle injury. Daniel Theis is out for the season with a torn meniscus injury to his left knee. Marcus Smart recently had right thumb surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the regular season, with there being a chance he will return at some point for the playoffs. And Jaylen Brown suffered a concussion that has him sidelined, as well.