The Celtics dropped their first loss of the season in Minnesota on Monday, falling 114-109 in overtime to the Timberwolves.
Here are the takeaways.
1. If you’re concerned about Monday’s loss, first remember that the Celtics were the only undefeated team in the league entering Monday’s game, and the undefeated streak wouldn’t last until 82.
If you insist on being annoyed, don’t worry about the Timberwolves losing. They have the league’s best defense and an emerging bona fide star in Anthony Edwards. The Celtics are a better team, but the Timberwolves are on a promising trajectory and can beat anyone on any given night.
While the Timberwolves deserve credit for their individual defense against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics fell back into some bad habits against defensemen who had repeatedly proven to be tough to beat, and the offense was broken up in overtime by repeatedly hitting single of the points. the Timberwolves’ best defensemen 1-on-1.
Brad Stevens got Kristaps Porzingis for a number of reasons, but the main one was to give the offense the pieces it needed to not be stopped by an elite defense. As the season progresses, a good sign of progress will be if the Celtics can mount a better offense late in the game, taking advantage of the new pieces.
2. We learned some interesting things about Edwards, who finished with 38 points (including eight in overtime), nine rebounds and seven assists. When it heats up, it gets incredibly hot. When he plays in, he is an annoying ball defender. If he experiments as a passer, he can make some special plays.
There’s obviously plenty for the 22-year-old to work on (one area of his game that needs a lot of work is handling double teams). But one of the fun things about being a 22-year-old future NBA star is how they put their puzzle together. Edwards is working with a lot of pieces and it looks like he already has the edge ready.
3. Tatum reached 32 points on 22 shots, but he recorded six goals, and Celtics fans saw shades of what happened when the Heat were particularly aggressive last year. After facing the Wizards and Pacers’ porous defenses so far this season, trying to score against the Timberwolves’ guards and wings was like trying to run on a treadmill after eating well all afternoon.
4. Joe Mazzulla started Jrue Holiday again against an opposing big man, which is an interesting wrinkle that he seems to like for the All-Defense guard. Holiday defended Julius Randle well in the Celtics’ season opener against the Knicks, and he gave Karl-Anthony Towns absolute fits. Towns finished with seven points and played much of the game in foul trouble before fouling out late. Other than consecutive baskets against Holiday in the third, he never got going.
However, Holiday struggled offensively (12 points, 4-of-16 from the floor), which was an aggravating factor as the offense fell apart late.
5. Assistant coach Matt Reynolds’ impressive performance as Mazzulla’s challenger might have been his best work yet in the third quarter. After putting up back-to-back baskets against Holiday, Towns appeared to score a third when Holiday fouled him. But the Celtics challenged the foul call and won, with the decision overturned as a foul on Towns.
The Celtics ultimately took advantage of both challenges mentioned in the game. In the fourth, the Timberwolves unsuccessfully challenged a foul on McDaniels, where he appeared to crowd Tatum’s landing space. Mistakes in the landing area sometimes result in flagrant fouls, and although the call remained a common foul after review, the Timberwolves still lost their second challenge and a timeout.
6. If you’re a Celtics fan looking for a feel-good moment, Jaylen Brown absolutely demolished Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert twice, even though he only scored on one of the plays.
Here’s the one he scored: a monstrous one-handed slam over Gobert.
Shortly after, Brown dropped Gobert to the deck with a crossover. He may have pushed off, but he missed the shot, so the clip didn’t make the rounds on Twitter. Between the lack of crossover footage and the Timberwolves’ impressive win, Gobert may have been spared from social media ridicule.
It was a particularly vicious dunk, though.
7. With 2:13 left in the fourth, the Celtics made the brave decision to hack Gobert on their last chance to do so (each intentional foul in the final two minutes is two shots plus the ball). Mazzula again came out with foresight: Gobert – who went 2-for-9 from the free-throw line and stepped up to it – missed two more.
8. With time winding down in regulation, the Celtics got a stop and another look with about 12 seconds left. Brown moved the ball up the floor and created quite a bit of space against McDaniels, which – as we’ve established – is no easy feat. However, his three-pointer fell just short.
9. Let’s close by noting what an absolute bummer it is that Robert Williams will miss a lot of time due to knee surgery. Williams and Marcus Smart haven’t been missed much on the court by this loaded Celtics team, but they were (are) both good players, and they were (are) a lot of fun to watch when healthy. I hope Williams makes a full recovery.
The Celtics are back in action on Wednesday against the 76ers in Philadelphia.
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