FINAL: Boston: 115 Minnesota: 102
With Kyrie Irving sidelined due to an eye injury suffered in Monday’s loss to the Spurs the Celtics were undermanned and needed some guys to step it up. Terry Rozier took the reigns as PG1 and put together a really nice game posting 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and tied a career high with 5 steals. It still kind of looked like he was forcing shots at times but they were going in so I can’t have much of a gripe with that. His aggression is both a blessing and a curse as when he’s at his best he’s forcing the issue while at the same time, he often gets carried away. Tonight was an example of the blessing side of it and he was doing some patented Rondo type stuff on the Timberwolves.
and stuff like this:
It’s about finding some sort of a balance and when he starts and has 30+ minutes to do so, things usually go better for him. DO NOT get my words construed and start the “The Celtics are better without Kyrie” talk because they aren’t. There isn’t even any analysis I should have to give. They’re better with Kyrie Irving and the Celtics desperately need Kyrie Irving.
Now that that’s all off of my chest, let us dive into the real story of the night and that was Gordon Hayward. In 32 minutes of play he scored a season high 35 points and had 5 dimes on 14-18 shooting and a 4-7 mark from distance. I’ll just let the highlights speak for themselves on this one because he was on fire.
He did it all, as he hit from deep, drove to the basket/finished strong at the rim, had the mid-range game going, and as always, got his teammates involved effectively. It’s just about him getting out of his own head and just playing freely. He rarely jumps off of his left foot (the formerly broken leg) and his whole game just looks really awkward when going to the basket from the the right. If you check the tape you can clearly see him going off of his right foot most of the time (especially while dunking) and the only really comfortable looking drives he has are going left (and jumping off of his right). Postgame Gordon said that his lateral movement is just about where it was pre-injury while his vertical movement/explosiveness still has a little bit to go but it is “getting better”.
His whole game is going to open up if he goes to the basket hard and becomes a threat to turn the corner and score. Most of this season he’s driven to the lane only to go up and rifle a pass back outside and it’s become rather predictable. Being a threat to drive will not only open up his game but also will open up the passing lanes. One of Gordon’s best (and most underrated) attributes is his passing ability and the more of a threat he is to score, the better his passing will get.
I feel like he just needs to have 5 straight solid games in a row where he’s being aggressive and actively testing out that ankle. It feels like after he has a solid/big game he’s been following it up with a stinker so Friday’s game will be important for him to build upon tonight. I’m happy for him as he had the whole arena behind him and it was his best moment in green thus far.
The third quarter continues to be a nightmare for the Celtics as they let up 39 points (20 to Karl-Anthony Towns) and let a lead as big as 22 dwindle down to 6. While I didn’t really see many issues with the defense on Monday and thought it was more of a result of hot shooting, tonight was different. They continually just got outmuscled in the paint by Towns and after a lackluster first half (4 points on 2-9) he put together a dominant looking performance finishing with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. Luckily for the Celtics, they were able to get 15 out of Hayward in the quarter as he kept disaster from ensuing like it did on Monday. Andrew Wiggins gave the Celtics trouble as well as he had 31 points of his own and a season high. He has such an ugly game where really nothing looks like it’s going in and it’s all forced but he had a nice effort tonight. He can jump out of the gym and I was most impressed with some of his drives as he floats in mid-air.
In the third as well (quarter is such a house of horrors it’s ridiculous) there was a scary moment where Marcus Smart was clipped by a KAT screen and left the game holding his right shoulder.
While the general public was diagnosing a dislocated shoulder (I was one of these members of the general public), Smart did the most Marcus Smart thing ever. He returned, and one of the first times up the floor on offense, FIRED a bomb from three point range (it didn’t go in but I would’ve given the rights to my first-born to have seen it go in). Luckily he’s been diagnosed with a shoulder strain and the news was that he just was hit in a nerve. More injury news, Marcus Morris left the game with a neck injury and it is being called a neck strain.
The Celtics definitely do not need any more injuries and they lucked out as both of these injuries seem to be little things.
Last but not least, Al Horford cashed in an efficient performance on both sides of the ball as he went 7-9 from the floor for 15 points/5 rebounds and he did a good job when matched up with KAT. A lot of the trouble KAT was having early can be attributed to the defense on him by Horford and it really threw the TWolves for a loop early on.
A really solid effort by the Celtics and a building point with Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks coming to town on Friday.
Last, last thing. I am ALL in on the KG era throwbacks the TWolves sported tonight and naturally, they reminded me how much I miss KG.
Since I miss KG, heres one of his finest interviews in green with the late Craig Sager
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