What to watch for tonight from the Celtics and Timberwolves

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BOSTON – It has only been two games for the Celtics but there is a noticeable difference with how they play now.

Back-to-back double-digit wins certainly provide a much-needed boost of confidence.

But their outlook heading into tonight’s game at Minnesota is more akin to how many anticipated they would be from the beginning.

Solid teams like New Orleans can battle but they can eventually be worn down. 

But teams as bad as the Cleveland Cavaliers have to be dispatched quickly and not be given even a passing glance at being competitive.

“To be honest, we’re looking to come out and destroy teams whether they are the top of their division or the lowest in their division,” Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. “We have to treat every game the same.”

That’s easier said than done, of course. But Boston (12-10) has shown an ability to step up their play and, at a minimum, be competitive with their foe.

Boston did a lot of likable things Friday night and certainly seem focused on building off that success.

Here’s a look at five things to keep an eye on tonight as the Celtics try to extend their winning streak to three: 

SCORING BINGE 3.0?

Finishing with another offensive explosion won’t be as easy tonight. While New Orleans and Cleveland ranked among the NBA’s worst teams defensively, the Tom Thibodeau-coached Timberwolves are more middle of the pack with a defensive rating (106.9) that ranks 17th in the NBA while allowing 110.2 points per game, which is 15th in the league in scoring defense.

DEFENSE
Throughout a season of inconsistent play, Boston’s defense has consistently managed to find a way to impact the game at a high level. They come in having held eight opponents to less than 100 points, which tied for second in the NBA. That will tougher against a Minnesota team that has failed to reach 100 or more points in only two games this season while averaging 109.9.

GORDON HAYWARD

KYRIE IRVING
He was able to get where he wanted to and get whatever he felt he needed against Cleveland and their rookie point guard Collin Sexton. Tonight will be a tougher matchup for Irving as he faces off against Minnesota’s Jeff Teague, a former All-star in Atlanta. But the challenge Irving presents these days is his ability to impact the game not only as a scorer but also a playmaker. He has been finding guys open a lot lately and to their credit, they’re knocking down their shots, which is evident by Irving tallying a double-double in three of the past six games.

AL HORFORD

Boston needs Horford to deliver a similar performance at both ends of the floor like the one he had at New Orleans when he tallied a near double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds. Yes, Anthony Davis had a monster double-double but he had to work a lot harder for it than he usually does courtesy of Horford’s defense, which not only made times hard for Davis but also anchored a defense that gave fits to the entire New Orleans team, leading to a relatively easy victory.

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