So which Celtics team will show up Sunday night at the Minnesota Timberwolves (7 p.m. EDT; TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI)? Will it be the group that responded to adversity last Saturday against the Hornets and Monday against the Knicks like the veteran, battle-tested bunch they are? Or will it be the unfocused, selfish, sleepwalking group that rolled over in home losses earlier this week to inferior opponents like Memphis and Charlotte?
It's anyone's guess. The Celts (50-21) are reeling right now after Friday night's 83-81 defeat at the hands of the Bobcats, which may have been the low point of the season. A 13-point lead headed into the fourth quarter and a nine-point cushion with eight minutes left weren't enough to hold off Charlotte, which came into that game losers of four straight and missing their top three scorers. Headed into Sunday night against the Wolves, the C's, having lost six of 10, are now in danger of falling all the way down to the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference if they lose and Miami defeats Houston.
The Celts beat Minnesota, 96-93, on Jan. 3, at TD Garden, a game in which the Wolves best player, Kevin Love, grabbed a monstrous 24 rebounds. Love has missed the Wolves' last two games with a groin injury, but practiced on Saturday and may return for Sunday night's game. Overall, the C's have beaten Minnesota eight straight times, with their last loss coming in February, 2007, when Kevin Garnett still toiled in Minneapolis.
Offense has been a real problem for the Celtics, who haven't lost three games in a row in a year. They've averaged just 86 points per game over their last 10. The Wolves (17-56) allow 107.1 points per game, worst in the league, and have given up 111 per game over the course of a losing streak that reached six on Friday night against Oklahoma City, so something may have to give for Boston.
The Celtics, still without both Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal, will also be missing forward Troy Murphy, who will be out with a sprained ankle for this entire four-game road trip that continues Monday night in Indiana and includes stops later in the week at San Antonio and Atlanta.