March 9, 2018, 12:04 am
After five days off and three days of tough practices, the Wolves couldn’t find much of an answer for their defensive issues. The Boston Celtics, known more for their top-ranked defense, put up 117 points on the night, shooting 49.4 percent overall, including 60 percent in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves were able to score 109 points and shoot 46.8 percent from the field, but the inability to get consistent stops wasn’t going to cut it. Like many times before this season, the defense just couldn’t hold up long enough.
Nemanja Bjelica had a career game with 30 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and six 3-pointers on 6-of-9 attempts. He shot 11-of-16 from the field overall and 2-of-2 from the line. The points, rebounds and 3-pointers were all career-highs.
Taj Gibson was the other star offensively with 18 points, four rebounds and one assist on 8-of-10 shooting overall.
The source of offense coming from the two most unlikely candidates speaks to the Celtics’ gameplan. It was clear form the beginning they didn’t want to allow Karl-Anthony Towns to put up a repeat performance from the last time, where he went 9-of-16 overall for 25 points and 23 rebounds.
Instead Towns was only able to break-off for 15 points and 11 rebounds on 5-of-12 shooting.
Andrew Wiggins had a similarly disappointing game with 13 points on just 6-of-21 shooting overall, and 1-of-8 from 3-point range. He did add seven rebounds, four assists and two steals, but he didn’t make it to the free throw line.
This loss marks the first time all season the Wolves have had a three-game losing streak, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The standings are still extremely tight, with the Wolves just two games from fallout out of the race and two games from home-court advantage.
The loss of Jimmy Butler is more apparent as the defeats continue to pile up. They certainly missed Butler in the two losses in Utah and Portland, and while he alone wouldn’t have won this game for the Wolves, his absence magnifies a disturbing trend.
With Butler on the court, the team has a defensive rating of 105.3. When he’s off the court, the team has a defensive rating of 113.7. Butler is always ready to be on the floor and diving for loose-balls and making the hustle plays, but lately that energy has been lacking.
The Celtics doubled the amount of deflections that the Wolves had, recovered more loose-balls and contested more shots than the Wolves by about 10 percent, a difference of 14 shots.
Now three games into the gauntlet, the Wolves are win-less with five still to go. Things aren’t any easier with the Warriors coming to town next.