MONTREAL – The Timberwolves’ 104-89 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday night in a place where hockey usually packs ’em in confirmed what coach Rick Adelman already suspected about his team while it still left questions about those things he doesn’t yet know.
“We’ll make shots,” he said afterward. “This team will be able to score, I believe.”
The NBA’s worst three-point shooting team a season ago, the Wolves made 10 threes on a night at Bell Centre when Adelman played starters Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio together significantly for the first time since the team’s preseason opener. This time his starters responded more to his liking at the game’s beginning and end.
After lamenting sluggish starts during the team’s first four preseason games, Adelman watched his top unit — with Derrick Williams inserted at small forward for Corey Brewer — build an early 20-9 lead against a Celtics team that now is 1-6 in the preseason. Then he sent his starters — with Brewer subbed for Williams — back into the game midway through the fourth quarter and watched them rip off an 11-2 run in 2 ½ minutes before sitting them down for the night.
In between, the Wolves were inconsistent on offense: They had nine assists in the first quarter and one in the second, and afterward Adelman stressed the need for better ball movement.
Martin played 30 minutes after missing essentially the three previous games because of a sore Achilles’ tendon. He practiced five days last week during an unusual eight-day break and declared himself feeling “great” after a 21-point, 7-for-16 performance that included five threes.
“We’ve been waiting for a really solid wing scorer like Kevin,” Love said after delivering a 22-point, nine-rebound game himself.
Martin responded in turn.
“I’m glad he thinks that,” Martin said. “He’s the post scorer I’ve always been waiting for.”
Sunday’s game, though, left Adelman uncertain about the state of his team’s defense and just what he will do at small forward. Williams played 23 minutes and offered five points, seven rebounds, two assists and one block.
Adelman said he might start other small-forward candidates — Othyus Jeffers, Robbie Hummel, Shabazz Muhammad — Wednesday at Philadelphia and Thursday in the preseason finale at Detroit while he and Flip Saunders decide whether they need to bolster that position through a trade or free-agent signing.
On Sunday, Boston’s Gerald Wallace was the most active, impactful small forward on the floor. Afterward, Adelman said he’ll have to look at the video to see how his team played with Williams and Brewer on the floor.
“Derrick played hard, he tried to defend,” Adelman said, “so we’ll just keep evaluating.”
Adelman will do the same with his team’s defense as well.
“It’s getting better,” Martin said. “That’s an area we need to be working on every day, even when we’re sleeping. Guys are making a continuing effort to get better every day.”
• Announced attendance for the “NBA Canada Series” game was 20,152 on a night when basketball, not hockey, drew a big crowd at Bell Centre, home of the NHL’s Canadiens.
• The Wolves used the Canadiens dressing room, which is plastered with historical photos and plaques. “You look around and see all the Hall of Famers who have come here,” Love said. “It’s a special place. We know we’re on sacred ground.”
• Rubio celebrates his birthday on Monday. “Yeah, I’m getting old: 23,” he said while soaking his feet in ice after a game in which he made enough shots (5-for-9) and got to the basket enough to keep the Celtics defense honest.