Setting the stage:
The Timberwolves are back out on the road after a wildly unsuccessful six game home stretch, with the team losing 5 of 6 at home. Going further back the team has lost 14 of its last 16 games in total and it looks like the ship has sailed on this season. The current streak has moved the Wolves 11 games under .500 and to 18-29 on the season, 7.5 games behind the Jazz and Rockets for the last two seeds in the Western Conference playoff race.
If you are looking for a silver bullet for the remainder of the season, it is the return of the real Ricky Rubio. Over the past week Rubio has averaged 14 points and 12 assists while playing well over 30 minutes per game. He is getting teammates the ball where they want/need it and has added to the highlight reel in each game. Rubio’s play is just about the only thing left to look forward to right now until Love and Budinger return.
For the first time this season, the Grizzlies match up against our Wolves. Memphis comes into today’s game off of a win Friday night against Golden State, improving their record to 31-18 on the season. The Grizzlies made news less than two weeks ago when they unofficially opened up the NBA trade season by shipping Rudy Gay out along with other pieces that in return netted Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye. I like Rudy a lot, but this was a pretty good deal for Memphis for the long term.
Player to watch:
Zach Randolph – Randolph has been playing well this season and will likely have a larger role in the offense without Gay. Without Love and Kirilenko playing for the Wolves, it will be interesting to see what Derrick Williams can do against the crafty left hander. I would expect a big night from the veteran in this favorable match-up.
Match-up to watch:
Nikola Pekovic vs. Marc Gasol. Per my venting from Friday’s game against the Knicks, the Wolves must feed Pek the ball in the paint. Pek needs to have a monster game in order for the team to have any chance of winning this evening and his teammates need to put much more of an effort in getting him the ball. Gasol’s numbers are down this season vs. last but he is still having a very good year, averaging 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
As mentioned earlier, Andrei Kirilenko will not play again this evening and that takes away the vast majority of the chance the Wolves had at pulling this one out.
Final score prediction: Twolves 94, Grizzlies 106
Three stars of the game predictions:
- Zach Randolph
- Tony Allen
- Ricky Rubio
Let’s go Wolves!