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Celtics-Timberwolves Preview

Nov 4, 2009 - 7:13 AM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Boston (5-0) at Minnesota (1-3), 8:00 p.m. EDT

While the Boston Celtics are coming off a hot-shooting performance, players will always focus on defense.

With Kevin Garnett set to play at the Target Center for the second time as a visitor, the Celtics look to extend their unbeaten start when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Boston (5-0) is one of three remaining unbeaten teams along with Denver and Phoenix. The Celtics, though, have the NBA's best scoring defense, holding opponents to 79.8 points per game.

Boston is coming off one of its best defensive efforts so far this season in a 105-74 victory at Philadelphia on Tuesday. The 76ers shot 36.3 percent and was 1 of 16 from 3-point range.

That helped make up for an off night by two of Boston's Big Three. While Paul Pierce had a led the team with 21 points, Ray Allen scored five and Garnett went 1 of 7 from the floor to finish with three, his fewest since being held to two by Dallas as a rookie in 1996.

Garnett, the Wolves' all-time leader in virtually every category over 12 seasons with the franchise, missed his initial return in February 2008 due to an abdominal strain, but scored a team-high 17 in Boston's 95-78 victory on Nov. 21.

The Celtics, who are shooting 51.4 percent from the field to tie the Suns for the league lead, got a boost against the Sixers from Philadelphia native Rasheed Wallace. He connected on six of the Celtics' season-high 14 3-pointers and finished with 20 points.

Boston is averaging 101.4 points this in 2009-10, up a fraction from last season's total. Through five games, the Celtics are holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting, including 25.6 from 3-point range.

"It starts with defense for us," Kendrick Perkins told the league's official Web site. "We know we're going to get our points. The points will be there. In the Eastern Conference, it's about getting stops."

Boston should have a well-rested starting lineup Wednesday. No starter played more than 31 minutes and Garnett was on the court for only 23 before being pulled with the game out of hand.

Boston has won five straight over Minnesota (1-3), which is coming off a 93-90 loss to the Clippers on Monday for its third straight defeat.

The Timberwolves were outscored 25-14 at the free-throw line while taking 16 fewer attempts. Los Angeles hit four free throws in the final 19.4 seconds to secure the win.

Al Jefferson scored 24 for the Timberwolves while Corey Brewer had 14, but missed a well-guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"We haven't yet gotten to the point where we know what play we're going to run with a low-clock situation and no timeouts when you've got to get the ball up the floor," first-year Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. "That's my fault that we haven't had the time to work on plays in that situation, but I like the fact that they got back in the ballgame and gave themselves a chance to win."

Acquired from the Celtics in 2007 as part of the trade that sent Garnett to Boston, Jefferson has averaged 22.5 points the last two games - up from 10.5 in the first two.

He is coming off a torn ACL that limited him to 50 games last season, but his minutes have increased in each game so far and he logged nearly 35 against the Clippers.