Celtics lose Jaylen Brown but beat Timberwolves

Celtics lose Jaylen Brown but beat Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS – One comes back, another goes out. 

It has been that kind of season for the Boston Celtics, who welcomed the return of Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) in their 117-109 win over Minnesota, but may be without another starter who was hurt in Thursday's game.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 23 points while Al Horford had 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists with Marcus Morris chipping in with 17 points off the bench.

The Timberwolves were led by Nemanja Bjelica's 30 points while Karl-Anthony Towns had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Boston had a double-digit lead going into the fourth as they once again found themselves trying to focus on the game after a teammate had to leave the game early due to an injury.

Jaylen Brown took a hard spill with a little more than a minute to play in the third following a dunk.

Seeing him on the floor laying motionless for a few seconds, created an arena full of bodies with no voice as we all awaited in silence for Brown to show a sign that the hard thud of his body hitting the floor wasn’t as bad as it looked.  With the assistance of the Celtics medical staff, Brown rose to his feet and went back to the locker room for additional evaluations. After being looked at by medical officials on-site, the Celtics released a statement indicating that he was not going to return and that he was being evaluated for concussion-like symptoms. 

As saddened as the Celtics were by Brown’s injury, they still had a quarter of play left in a game that for the most part, they were in control of. The Timberwolves did their part to claw back into the game, with Jamal Crawford leading the surge. But down the stretch, the Celtics had too many weapons offensively and were too strong on defense to ever have their control of the game in serious jeopardy.

Marcus Morris delivered yet another strong performance in a supporting role for Boston. Morris’ ability to get pretty much any and every shot he wanted in the first two quarters of play, was critical to Boston taking control in the first half. 

Boston closed out the first quarter with an 11-6 run to lead 35-28 after one quarter of play. 

Now Minnesota had some highlight worthy plays in the second quarter, like Anthony-Towns’ emphatic dunk over Aron Baynes. 

But the second belonged to Boston, as the Celtics got contributions from several players as Boston closed out the quarter with a 23-13 run to go into the half ahead 60-46.

Irving led all Celtics starters at the half with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting. But it was Morris getting it done against any and all wannabe Minnesota defenders. 

At the half, Morris had a game-high 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting as Boston’s bench had a commanding 23-2 edge. 

Minnesota came out of the half playing better and the reason was pretty obvious. 

They decided to push back and play with more force after the Celtics punked them at both ends of the floor for long stretches in the first half. 

Boston led by as many as 18 points, but an 11-2 run in the third by Minnesota cut Boston’s lead to 66-57. The Timberwolves cut the Celtics lead down to 70-63, only for Boston to go on an 8-3 run that set the stage for Boston to take an 86-74 lead into the fourth quarter.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

derrick-rose-timberwolves-30818.jpg
A. Sherrod Blakely

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

MINNEAPOLIS – One of the great things about this Celtics coaching staff is how they have been able to pivot in whatever direction is necessary when an unexpected factor enters the game-preparation equation like, say, an opponent signs a former league MVP whose best years came with the coach of the team he just signed with.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced the signing of Derrick Rose. who spent six of his nine-plus seasons playing for current Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago.

In that time, Rose was a three-time All-Star and 2010-11 MVP – accolades he has not accomplished anywhere else.

With that kind of resume and the familiarity with Thibodeau and a number of ex-Bulls on the Timberwolves roster, what impact does that have on Boston’s preparation for tonight?

Not a whole lot, for several reasons.

For starters, it’s not an absolute that Rose will play tonight, although the fact that Rose mentioned in his presser about being given a small package of plays to work with, leads you to believe he’ll be given a starter's kit of plays to go with tonight. 

Even if Rose does play, he won’t play a large chunk of minutes and like most new guys, he’ll likely be looking to feel his new teammates out rather than try and take over and control the game’s flow.

And it’s not like the Celtics have not seen Rose play this season.

In his lone game against Boston this season with the Cavs, Rose had 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.

He was solid, but far from spectacular.

The Celtics are more likely to try and take advantage of his unfamiliarity with his new team, on the defensive end of the floor. It isn’t as much about him knowing or not knowing what the Celtics want to run, as it is how his teammates handle various situations.

Having had one shoot-around which is what Rose went through Thursday morning, isn’t going to be enough.

It is going to be a process, one that the Celtics should take advantage of when the opportunity presents itself – and it will at some point tonight.

While Rose is quite familiar with the Timberwolves system that has some similarities from Thibodeau’s time in Chicago, there are some significant differences in terms of the personnel and how Thibodeau uses them.

And when Thibodeau coached Rose, he was one of the top players in the NBA.

Now, he’s 29 and a role player trying to help a team that’s focused on getting to the playoffs.

It won't be an issue tonight, but it is worth keeping an eye on going forward. 

But with his return, there are still questions about his health, as well as his desire to play the game.

While in Cleveland, Rose once again had his share of injuries and wound up leaving the team in November to reportedly re-evaluate whether he wanted to continue playing the game.

He re-joined the team the following month and reportedly got married during his leave of absence to his longtime girlfriend Alaina Anderson. who recently gave birth to their child.

But it does bring into question how would he handle another physical setback.

Rose feels as though he still has a lot of basketball left in him to play.

The Celtics will get a glimpse of that tonight.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Coping with an injured superstar

jimmy-butler-3-7-18-timberwolves-ap.jpg
AP Photo

Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Coping with an injured superstar

MINNEAPOLIS – Similar in some ways, different in more that matter. 

That’s the only way you can look at the parallels some have tried to draw between the injuries to Boston’s Gordon Hayward and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.

Both are All-Star wing players who are playing with different teams this season than the one that drafted them. 

And both suffered leg-related injuries. 

But the significant difference is that Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury is expected to keep him sidelined for the entire season. 

Meanwhile, there’s a very good chance that Butler will be back in the Timberwolves lineup before the end of this month. 

MORE CELTICS:

Still, that shouldn’t diminish how much Butler has meant to the Timberwolves this season, and how his absence may very well be the unplanned break the Celtics need as they face off against Minnesota tonight. 

Butler was named an All-Star this past season and prior to his meniscus injury, a case could be made that he was playing at a borderline league-MVP level.

In 56 games this year, Butler is averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. It’s the kind of across-the-board production that has made him one of the game’s top players, and difficult to replace.

“You can’t replace Jimmy individually,” said Minnesota head coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau. “So we know we have to do it collectively. It’s an opportunity for other guys to grow. We have to play to our strengths, cover up our weaknesses and play with great tenacity.”

That’s certainly an apt description of Celtics basketball this season, which is on the doorstep of having the best record in the East despite playing all but five minutes of this season without Hayward, who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season opener. 

The Timberwolves have seen from afar how the Celtics galvanized themselves in the days and weeks following Hayward’s injury, putting together a season of success that has Boston record-wise among the top teams in the NBA. 

MORE BOSTON SPORTS:

Minnesota’s Jamal Crawford is one of the Timberwolves who has experienced what it’s like to have to pick up the slack when a key player is out of the mix. 

While playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, Crawford went through that on two separate occasions with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, respectively. 

Another Minnesota player, Taj Gibson, went through that in Chicago with Derrick Rose. 

That experience, Crawford says, will aid him in his efforts to help his youthful teammates navigate what’s expected to be a difficult and challenging period of time. 

“The more we lean on each other, the better we are collectively and the better chance we have of winning that night,” Crawford said. 

Injuries or not, Thibodeau is doing his part to make sure his team understands how important these games leading into the playoffs are for their future. 

“We have to be ready to play from the start,” Thibodeau said. “This is the time of year where everything is ramped up.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE