Jefferson proves difficult assignment
MINNEAPOLIS - Al Jefferson got the jump on his former teammates last night. But in the late going, the Celtics solved Jefferson and the Timberwolves in a 92-90 victory.
“With Al, you just want to try to make things hard on him,’’ said Celtic Kendrick Perkins. “He did a lot of great things as far as stepping outside, shooting jumpers. I was just trying to force him off the block. I thought he made a lot of tough shots and he played well.
“He’s the key to their team and going against somebody like that you just have to make sure you make it tough on them. You’re not really going to stop them all the way, you just want to make everything tough. I know with Al, Ryan Gomes, they have something to prove. Any time you get traded and you play your old team - I know I would, I’d be gassed up for that game - and it’s expected. A lot of guys surprised us. [Oleksiy] Pecherov, he played big, he knocked down some big shots for them. They played hard and they played good team ball.’’
Jefferson scored 13 of his 18 points in the opening quarter and had a quick-release 20-footer waved off as a replay review showed he took it after the shot-clock buzzer had sounded.
“We’re a defensive team that’s trying to get better offensively,’’ said Kevin Garnett, who was playing just his second game in Minnesota since being traded to the Celtics. “We can score some points, but how we make our money and how we eat, as we say, is we play defense. We knew they were playing with a lot of energy. We watched a little game film and some of it was inconsistent with how they played [last] night. They played at a whole other level and played some good basketball. But when we had to make some stops, I thought we did a good job of that.’’
Though the Celtic starters failed to make major offensive impacts against the Sixers, coach Doc Rivers was as impressed with their play.
“Last year, that’s a loss, for sure,’’ Rivers said of the Philadelphia game. “The year before we may still win the game, because we had a pretty good bench. The  points by the second unit, that’s - you’ll take that every night; you won’t get it, but you’ll take it. The one thing they did do, that they didn’t do well last year - when the offense struggled, that led to the defense breaking down.
“[Against Philadelphia], they set the tone defensively. They struggled and couldn’t score, and yet it was a 1-point game. That meant the other team wasn’t scoring. Of all the things that happened, it was what the starters did. They didn’t score and they kept playing defense, they had the same defensive intensity, and that’s a good sign for us.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.