Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Thibodeau has Minnesota on right track


Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Thibodeau has Minnesota on right track

BOSTON – The Minnesota Timberwolves are doing the seemingly unthinkable when it comes to Tom Thibodeau-coached teams – they’re getting buckets.

Boston’s defense will indeed be put to the test tonight against a Timberwolves team that ranks among the league’s top scoring clubs.

Minnesota is averaging 108.4 points per game which ranks seventh in the NBA, a significant improvement from the teams he coached in Chicago.

One of the keys to Minnesota’s improved play has been the addition of Jimmy Butler who played for Thibodeau in Chicago.

This season, his first with Minnesota, Butler is averaging 21.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

“He’s just entering his prime,” Thibodeau told NBC Sports Boston, referring to Butler. “He’s a complete player, plays both sides of the ball. And his veteran leadership … he’s already gone through a lot of the things Karl (Anthony-Towns) and Andrew (Wiggins) are just starting to go through. That’ll be very beneficial to those two guys.”

In addition to Butler, Minnesota also added former all-star Jeff Teague and veteran sixth man Jamal Crawford.

Having more proven veterans has provided some much-needed stability to a franchise that’s clearly turning the corner towards respectability and has them on track to making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

However, they still have this nasty habit of letting late-game leads slip away from them.

Last season, only Charlotte (14) and Philadelphia (14) blew more leads going into the fourth quarter of games, than Minnesota (12).

This season, the Timberwolves have lost seven such games which is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the most blown leads going into the fourth.

“We definitely have to do a better job of finishing games, for sure,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach. “I think having more guys who have been in those situations, found success in those situations, is really going to help us, hopefully, get over the hump this season.”

Getting over the hump has been one of the Celtics’ strengths most of this season.

Boston (31-10) has the best record in the Eastern Conference ,partly due to the ability to overcome some pretty steep deficits to some quality foes.

Of Boston’s 31 wins, seven have come after trailing by at least 13 points. That includes a 99-98 win over Houston on Dec. 28, a game in which Boston fell behind by as many as 26 points in the third quarter before rallying for the win.

A big part of Boston’s success has been the relatively steady play of their defense, which has been aided by having a roster that has more players than past years whose strength lies in their length and athleticism. 

"It's really important," said coach Brad Stevens. "It's all about being versatile and switch."


Report: Celtics have interest in signing Euro League star

Report: Celtics have interest in signing Euro League star

The Celtics are among several NBA teams with interest in signing Euro League star Brad Wanamaker, according to international basketball reporter David Pick.

The Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat also have interest in Wanamaker, according to Pick.

Wanamaker, 28, a 6-foot-4 guard, went undrafted out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. He's averaged 14.9 points and 4.9 assists and shot 43 percent, 36 percent from 3, in three Euro League seasons.

The Celtics got a solid season from European free-agent signee Daniel Theis of Germany last season (5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds in 14.9 minutes a game before a knee injury in March. 


Report: Miami guard Brown to have second workout with Celtics

Report: Miami guard Brown to have second workout with Celtics

University of Miami guard Bruce Brown, who's from Boston, played in the area in high school and is a possibility when the Celtics pick 27th on Thursday night in the NBA draft, will work out for Boston for a second time this week, Keith Smith of RealGM reports.

Smith, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, saw his draft stock drop after his sophomore season ended with a foot injury in January.

The defensive-minded point guard is an inconsistent shooter (27 percent on 3-pointers last season) but Smith reports he fits the mold of Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.

Brown was born in Boston and played at  Wakefield (Mass.) High and at Vermont Academy. 

Also visiting the Celtics for a second workout, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, is Cincinnati guard Jacob Evans, another defense-first guard who's bigger (6-6, 210), but similar to Brown.