Wolves Fall Just Short In Huge Comeback Against Grizzlies

Kevin Garnett's night at Target Center was cut short due to two T's. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett’s night at Target Center was cut short due to two T’s. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)


Today’s game recap below is brought to you by Harlie Olson.  Harlie joins the Timberpups.com team via connecting on FanCred.  Welcome aboard!

In the second game of the second Kevin Garnett era the Memphis Grizzlies came to Target Center seeking revenge for their February 6th 90-89 defeat to the Wolves in which Ricky Rubio came up in the clutch with two free throws in the last ten seconds to take the lead. Since then our favorite team has changed quite a bit, the departures of Mo Williams,Thad Young, and Troy Daniels, the injury of Anthony Bennett, and the additions of Adreian Payne, Gary Neal, and KG have all contributed to the changing landscape.

Just watching pre-game warm-ups you could tell the atmosphere wasn’t going to be quite as great as Wednesday’s affair with the wizards, but in the last 7 years it definitely ranks way up there. The match-up that had me the most excited going into the game was Garnett on Zach Randolph. The two had met each other a bunch of times when Kevin was still in Minnesota with KG having the upper hand most of the time, but with Kevin obviously having only limited playing time it just made you need to enjoy what you get to see.

As Kevin gave the crowd a salute as the action got underway. The beginning of the game saw a rather sloppy style of play with both teams running up and down the floor, missing shots, turning the ball over, and committing offensive fouls. The game remained scoreless until Gorgui Dieng hit a free throw two and a half minutes in. In a stretch of two minutes in the first quarter KG had 3 steals,2 points, and an assist where Andrew Wiggins slammed it home. With the quarter halfway over the score was T-wolves 15-Grizzlies 7. Memphis kept the sloppiness deep into the quarter as the wolves ended the quarter with  points off of turnovers. Once KG came off the floor after five minutes Andrew Wiggins stole the show ending the quarter with eight points. The score at the end of the quarter was 24-18 with the Wolves revamped defense flexing its muscles.

The second quarter began with a quick grizzlies run that got to 8-0 before Gary Neal hit a 15 foot jumper and got fouled for an and one which he converted. Despite the Grizzlies early dynamics both teams looked extremely sloppy for the second straight quarter with a stretch of 3 minutes without any effectiveness on offense for either teams. Four minutes into the quarter Zach Lavine had a slam, which reminded us all why he is the NBA’s slam dunk champion. At this point the wolves led by one, and both teams were starting to look much more efficient on offense. That trend continued until Lavine showed us he is still a rookie, as he tuned the ball over on consecutive possessions much like he had in the wolves last game against the bulls.

With five and a half minutes left in the half Ricky and Kevin checked back in the game. With that the atmosphere of Target Center stepped up a few notches. A minute later a mysterious technical foul was called on Flip Saunders for which I couldn’t figure the cause, then a minute later KG started taking at the refs and got a technical. Of course immediately afterwards the crowd chanted KG, KG, KG. He responded with an assist on a beautiful pass to K-mart on the next possession. With two minutes left in the quarter the wolves tied the game 44-44 on a 20 foot KG jump shot. With five seconds left in the half Garnett attempted a three that ended with Dieng getting a rebound, and afterwards fouled that resulted in two made free throws. After that the Wolves went into the half down by two 48-46.

Halftime stats and facts

  • Andrew Wiggins was the best player in the first half with 12 points.
  • The wolves had 9 steals in the first half, and 19 points off of turnovers from 15 turnovers overall.
  • Kg ended the half with 2 points, 3 steals, and a thousand smiles.
  • There were no sightings of Jiggle Boy. I repeat, NO SIGHTINGS OF JIGGLE BOY!
  • Kevin Garnett wears sweats better than anyone, ever.
  • Despite our field goal percentage being 44% compared to 63% we still  stayed in the game very well.
  • Garnett attempted his seventh 3 of the year missing. Making his season total 1/7.
  • Dieng was perfect in the first half with 11 points on 3/3 shooting and 5 free throws that were all made.

The Grizzlies started the third quarter with a 4-0 run before Flip called a timeout, so his troops could regroup. After the timeout the Grizzlies continued their run to 6-0 before Dieng stuffed one in for two. With the Wolves down 54-48 Mike Conley penetrated the paint and forced KG to foul. He made the shot and converted on the free throw. On the next possession Kevin responded with another jumper to bring his point total to six. The game was over for Kevin though, on the next possession he fouled Conley, and out of frustration he threw the ball at the ground … think 1/8th of a Gronkowski spike. Somehow he got the technical for it, his second of the game resulting in his ejection. He walked to the tunnel saluting the crowd before disappearing into the locker room.

Immediately after that the Grizzlies continued their domination of the second half stretching the wolves deficit to 12. Despite Gorgui scoring on the next possession the grizzlies further co tinged the domination making their lead 15 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Andrew Wiggins scored six points on the next three possessions, and then Payne hit a jumper making the wolves have a 8-0 run, and suddenly a close game at 60-67. Ricky got a steal on the next possession, and got fouled to shoot two. He hit the first, and the second to make it a 5 point game, and to stretch the run to 10-0. The Grizzlies would end their drought with a Tony Allen lay up. Wiggins was than fouled and made both shots to bring it back to a 6 point game at 63-69. After that Marc Gasol got a technical, for hitting Payne in the eye, and coach Joerger received one for arguing. The Wolves made both free throws, and Gary Neal followed that up with a three making the score 68-69, and continuing the Wolves run to 16-2. With 0.6 seconds left in the third Rubio was fouled for god knows what reason, and made both shots to make the score 70-72 grizzlies going into the fourth.

Target Center was revved up for what was inevitably going to be a very exciting finish to a game that has included 5 technical fouls. Right away in the fourth Wiggins tied the game up, and the Wolves forced a turnover on the way back. Adrian Payne scored next, and despite my failing to mention him in this recap much, definitely had his best game in the league yet. Ricky Rubio hit a big 3 to take the lead 77-76 that was followed up by a Grizzlies air ball. The next minute was highlighted by great ball movement on the wolves part and an awesome offensive rebound by Gorgui that looked like he had no chance of grabbing.

The Wolves called a timeout to regroup. After the timeout Gary Neal assisted by Ricky hit a big time 3, and the Wolves continued their resurgence to take a 4 point lead because of it. For the second time In the game Zach Lavine got a steal and brought it the other way for a huge slam to make the wolves lead 5 after the grizzlies made one of two free throws on the position beforehand. It felt like the Wolves were getting dominated just moments before, but the Wolves had made their run 30-10.Halfway through the fourth the grizzlies tied the game on a Zach Randolph three point play on just his second bucket if the night. Z-BO would get his third bucket on the grizzlies next trio down to give them a two point lead with five minutes left in the game.

In an unusually quiet night for Kevin Martin he decided to hit from downtown to take the lead by one. The Wolves would have two unproductive trips that were answered by two grizzly buckets to give the visitors a three point lead. The Wolves would get back on the board with a Wiggins turnaround immediately responded by Memphis with a bucket of their own by Tony Allen. With 1:58 left in the game Marc Gasol headed to the line to shoot two, of which he made one. K-Mart hit another big 3 on the next try, and Target Center went OFF.

Gasol made another trip to the line, this time knocking them both down. Down to the last minute of the game Zach Randolph inexplicably,y fouled Rubio, and was benched. Oh yeah, that was responded by ANOTHER KMART THREE TO TIE THE GAME! Unfortunately Mike Conley responded with a three of his own, followed by K-Mart forcing up a bad shot that was put back in with no regard for human life by Andrew Wiggins! The Wolves would foul Conley, and he made both shots setting the Wolves up with a three point deficit, and 11.3 seconds to tie it up. Martin got open and took a shot from three, but he couldn’t knock it down. After that the Pups fouled Tony Allen, after he made one of two Gary Neal put one up as the game ended that wouldn’t have mattered as the Wolves’ fate was sealed.

Another day, another loss in Loserville, USA right? I don’t think so, as the Wolves look very different compared to a month ago. Well Adrian Payne and Gary Neal were huge off the bench tonight. Neal had 16 points and Payne seemed to be in the right spot at the right time the entire second half.

Andrew Wiggins continued his climb towards superstardom tonight with yet another 20+ point game, and had one of his first signature moments when he had the huge put back in the last minute of the game. Games like these will help his progression towards being the second Franchise player the team has had.

59.4%: that was the field goal percentage of the Grizzlies for the game. A season high for the second best team in the Western Conference, so how did the Pups stay close? …

32 points off turnovers: if it were not for the turnovers created by the Wolves it would have gotten ugly.

Where was Pek? He only played 12 minutes,and I never heard an explanation, so we’ll have to pay attention to see if we have another injury to a key starter.

I was surprised that in Flip’s presser his top priority was defending KG instead of praising the young guy’s tremendous comeback effort. Games like this will help the team much more than they would hurt it.

Timberwolves Stand Tall, Defeat Grizzlies 90-89

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)


Both teams started the season with a 0-0 record and when they faced each other on opening night, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves had reason for optimism.  Since losing opening night in Memphis, the Timberwolves have faced a series of injuries and unfortunate events week by week.  At 9-40, the Wolves are looking at the forthcoming All-Star Weekend as a time to recharge their collective battery.

At 37-12, the Grizzlies may want to hold off on the All-Star break, as they have been red hot since hitting a midseason bump in the road in late December, early January.  Since January 11th, Memphis has won 12 of 13 games they have played.

The teams met again on Friday night in the Target Center and here is a look at the action.

Since covering last Friday’s massacre in Philadelphia, the Wolves got their Unicorn back and the team has been remarkably more appealing to watch.  Minnesota opened up Friday night with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Grizzlies countered with Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.

Both teams got off to a slow start on the offensive end, which probably could have been predicted the way the Grizzlies typically slow the pace down.  The Wolves also lost Pekovic early to two fouls.  However, Gorgui Dieng filled in admirably throughout the first quarter.  Coming out of the first timeout of the game, the Wolves went to Andrew Wiggins often and he continued to come through scoring the next four baskets for Minnesota and giving his team a 14-10 advantage.  One other note from the start of the game – Ricky Rubio assisted on each of the team’s first five baskets.  Have I mentioned it is nice to have Ricky back yet?

Would you like another example of the benefit of having Rubio on the floor?  With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Mo Williams launched a 24 foot jumper in order to set the Wolves up for a 2-for-1.  It missed badly.  After a steal on the defensive end, the Wolves had a chance to play for the last shot.  Williams pulled the ball out of what seemed like a potential bucket in transition, launched a 25 foot jumper as time expired and missed everything.  The score at the end of the 1st quarter was 24-23, Minnesota’s advantage.

With Pekovic back on the floor and Anthony Bennett at the Power Forward spot, the Timberwolves came out of the chute nicely in the 2nd quarter, at one point building a ten point lead, 37-27.  The highlight of the run came on a loose ball scramble where Wiggins tracked down the ball and whipped a pass to Bennett for a dunk.

All good things come to an end this season.  That ten point lead quickly evaporated with the Grizzlies going on a 10-0 run of their own.  During the run the Wolves committed three turnovers and missed badly from the floor.  At the half, the teams were tied at 43.

Here are a few additional halftime notes/stats:

  • The Timberwolves scored on only three of their final fifteen possessions of the half
  • Wiggins led the Wolves with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes of action … rookie wall will have to wait until after the All-Star break apparently
  • In his 9 minutes on the floor, Zach Randolph didn’t take a single shot and was scoreless in the half

The Timberwolves opened up the second half on a 10-3 run which was capped off with a Rubio three pointer from the top of the arc.  In the midst of the run however, Pekovic picked up his fourth foul and would be forced into very limited action for the remainder of the evening.  Once again, the Grizzlies came storming back to take a 58-57 lead, forcing Flip Saunders to burn another timeout.

With Ricky Rubio still on a minute limitation, Flip had to turn to Mo Williams again for PG duties, who promptly turned the ball over two times in a row trying to feed the post.  This led to the following:

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies held a 69-65 lead.  The Timberwolves offensive execution in the final minutes was fragile at best, highlighted by the final possession of the quarter that saw Mo Williams dribble at halfcourt for too long, feed a terrible pass to Kevin Martin right on the three point arc, and then seeing Martin launch an off-balance jump shot that clanged off of the rim.

Early in the 4th quarter the Wolves got another scare.  With a 77-73 lead, Thad Young threw a pass in the open court to Rubio who connected on a layup.  Ricky was fouled on the play but a whistle never blew, despite him crashing into the padding under the baseline.  Almost immediately, Ricky ran to the locker room but was back on the floor in under five minutes.  (Collective “Phew …”)

With Rubio’s return, something seemed to happen with the Wolves on the court.  It may have been confidence, it may have been his calmness.  Whatever it was, it worked.  After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Wolves found themselves down 85-78 with a little over two minutes to play.

Pekovic and Jeff Green traded jumpers, followed by a Rubio three pointer.  After Courtney Lee and Wiggins traded two made free throws, Rubio hit another three pointer to cut the Grizzlies lead to one point, 89-88.  On the Grizzlies next possession, the Wolves forced a turnover led by … you guessed it, Ricky Rubio.  Inexplicably, Zach Randolph fouled Rubio to put him on the line for two shots.  Ricky hit both to give the Wolves a one point lead, 90-89.  With a swarming defensive set, filled with solid rotations and a total team effort, the Wolves forced one final turnover to hold onto the victory.

The final score: Minnesota 90, Memphis 89 – the first back-to-back victories for our Pups this season!

Game Notes:

  • All five starters for the Wolves in double figures, led by Wiggins’ 18 points and 6 rebounds, Rubio’s 17/5/5/3 line, and Thad’s 14 points and 8 rebounds
  • The Grizzlies were only 2-12 from three point range tonight
  • Despite his 10 rebounds, Zach Randolph only scored 6 points and was a game low -10 in +/-

Timberwolves Losing Steam, Fall to Grizzlies on the Road

Memphis is hot. Minnesota is not.

Last night’s road game proved brutal for the Timberwolves as they found themselves unable to keep up with Mike Conley and his crew. Although the Wolves are ranked No. 4 in the league for scoring and are averaging 106.5 points per game, Memphis held them to just 92 points while taking the win with 109. Kevin Love led the team with lower-than-usual numbers of 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Gorgui Dieng delivered another strong performance with 11 points and 17 boards.

According to NBA.com, the Grizzlies are 8-0 since Dec. 25 when playing against teams who played the previous day. “We caught a good team on the second night of a back-to-back,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

After playing several games in which they scored over 30 points in the first quarter, the Timberwolves tallied just 15 against Memphis. Both teams struggled a bit out of the gatesMemphis made just four of its first 15 shotsbut the Grizzlies soon found their groove. The first basket didn’t come until the 9:55 mark, but it came at the hands of the Grizzlies, and they never looked back. Conley had 23 points and six assists, and Marc Gasol added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“We didn’t want to give them too much leeway,” Conley said. “We’ve been in the same shoes. You’re coming in off a tough game, and you kind of walk through the first part of the game.  We just wanted to jump out there as early as we could, set the tempo and try to get ahead of them.”

Minnesota seemed disoriented across the board, no one player having a fantastic game. Love shot just 6-of-18 from the field, and the team as a whole shot 38 percent. The Grizzlies had complete control of the game, driving the pace and offense. At halftime, they led the Wolves 57-39.

The Timberwolves found a bit of a spark in the third, going on a 15-4 run to close the quarter and lessen the deficit. They just couldn’t keep up with their shooting, though, and Memphis drove the win home.

“They played physical,” Love said. “When you play a team like that on a back-to-back, especially this late in the season, especially without Pek and Ronny and some depth, it’s tough.”

Forwards Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham had the best luck on the floor percentage-wise, adding 15 and nine points, respectively. It wasn’t enough, though.

Monday night’s loss pushes the Wolves seven games behind Dallas and Phoenix. At this point, it seems safe to say that finding the postseason is like a needle in a haystack for the Wolves… it’s not mathematically impossible, but losing these last two games seemed to seal Minnesota’s fate. Finishing the regular season strong is now the team’s main focus. “We just have to be competitive. That’s the biggest key right now — get through the end of the season and play each game competitively,” forward Chase Budinger said. “That’s how you have to look at it.”

Up next for the Wolves is a home game Wednesday, when they welcome Atlanta.  The Hawks are clinging to a No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the contest promises to be a close one. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Minnesota Timberwolves 86, Memphis Grizzlies 99

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Summary:

The Memphis Grizzlies blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter to sweep the season series between the two squads and to extend the Grizzlies’ win streak over the Pups to 11. Leading the way was Marc Gasol, who helped overcome a big performance on the other end from close friend and fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio.

Gasol, who has been playing through injury after suffering a torn abdominal muscle just a couple weeks ago, took advantage of the short-handed Wolves who were missing big man Nikola Pekovic to a sprained ankle. The 7-foot-1 center has played a big part in what has become an impressive Memphis season this year.

With Minnesota taking a 67-65 lead into the final period of play, the Grizzlies ignited to blow out the Pups 34-19 in the fourth quarter and Memphis improved to 49-24 on the season. The frontcourt options for Memphis were seemingly endless for a team that had enough time covering for Pekovic’s 290-pound body in the paint.

Memphis survived a near triple-double from Tricky Ricky as he fell one assists shy of his second career triple-double. The Grizz fought back with 50% field goal shooting as a team and 60% marksmanship from beyond the arc. Backup forward Darrell Arthur added 14 points (6-9 FG) off of the bench to spark a strong second unit bunch and point guard Mike Conley controlled the pace in the final period to help extend the Grizzlies’ dominance over the Timberwolves.

Keys of the Game:

  • Steals – The Lionel Hollins-led group did an excellent job of getting hands in the passing lanes and really interfered with the Wolves ball movement in the fourth quarter especially. Out-stealing Minnesota 9-3, six different Memphis players recorded at least one steal in an impressive show of defense.
  • Turnovers – Whenever you give the other team extra opportunities to score, you are shooting yourself in the foot and that is exactly what Minnesota did as they committed 16 turnovers to only 9 by the Grizzlies. Memphis does an excellent job of lateral ball movement in the half court offense and displayed excellent patience by working the shot clock to find the open man on the offensive end.
  • Shooting – The Grizzlies were precise in their shot looks as they nailed 6 of their 10 attempts from long-range and 37 of 73 looks from the field.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Marc Gasol – The loss of Pekovic from Minnesota’s frontcourt proved to be the dagger in this game as the Pups had a very difficult time containing Gasol with the combo of Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson. Well regarded as one of the top passing big men in the NBA, Gasol tallied 6 assists while also converting on 8 of his 12 field goal attempts as he notched 21 points and 8 rebounds. While many feared he may be lost for the season following his recent re-injury of his abdomen, Gasol has come on strong over the past few games and continues to give his squad momentum as they eye a playoff run in the following weeks.
  2. Ricky Rubio – Ricky truly played another fantastic game despite little support from his teammates in the final period, and unfortunately fell only 1 assist shy of notching his second career triple-double. In 40 minutes, Rubio finished with the line of 23 points (6-12 FG), 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Ricky provided more scoring than he is used to and carried the team offensively throughout much of the game.
  3. Mike Conley – Memphis’ point guard really set the tone for the Grizzlies offense in the final period of play and did an excellent job of pushing the ball up the floor for transition buckets. The former Ohio State standout finished with the line of 19 points (8-15 FG, 3-3 3Pt) and 4 assists in 33 minutes.

Minnesota Timberwolves 77 – Memphis Grizzlies 92

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Game Summary:

Less than 24 hours afer a nice win on their home floor, the Timberwolves were back on the court in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.  Let’s get right to it; the Wolves opened up with the same lineup from Sunday night (!!) – Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Grizzlies opened up with Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.

The Pups jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, with the entire starting lineup contributing a little bit of something to the advantage.  That forced an early timeout from Lionel Hollins.  However, that advantage slowly but surely diminished over the rest of the quarter, as the Grizzlies ended the quarter on a 9-0 run and held a 22-20 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

While low scoring, the 2nd quarter was relatively enjoyable.  Earlier in the quarter, Alexey Shved looked to be heating up a bit hitting his first two jumpers.  Unfortunately that run was short lived and he seemed to disappear as the minutes wore on.  I think Alexey could use a night off.  That can’t happen right now given the roster, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.  The bad version of JJ Barea came to play in Memphis.  At halftime, Barea was 1-7 from the field

The Grizzlies big men dominated the first half with Prince, Randolph, and Gasol all having very nice quarters.  Ed Davis came in to grab 5 rebounds and 2 blocks as well.  Memphis closed the quarter with a fury, as a Mike Conley jumper was sandwiched between a few defensive highlights from Prince.  At the half, the Grizzlies held a 45-39 lead.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • After a good shooting night Sunday, the Wolves were back to 36% for the first half
  • JJ and Ricky were a combined 2-12 from the field in the half – that isn’t going to get it done
  • Very few FT’s in the half, as the Wolves were 3-3 and the Grizzlies were 4-6

Someone forgot to tell the Pups that the 3rd quarter started as the Grizzlies jumped out to a 9-0 run to build a double digit lead.  The Marc Gasol show continued as he made Pekovic look inferior.  The entire Wolves squad were ice cold in the first half and even worse in the 3rd quarter.  Halfway through the quarter, the Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 18-4 and held a 20 point lead, 63-43.

With a 70-47 lead in the 3rd quarter, Wolves fans around the world had heart problems.  Ricky Rubio collided knees with Jerryd Bayless and limped off to the court.  As TV coverage returned to the game, Rubio was on the bench.  Minutes later, the Grizzlies TV crew noted that he was on his way to the locker room.  Words cannot describe the level of frustration this season has become.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies held a 74-53 lead. It was ugly while Rubio was in there, the game became a sideshow afterward, with the Grizzlies pouring it on with highlight reel dunks and uncontested three pointers.  The only good news to come out of this entire portion of the game was that the Wolves sideline reported that Rubio simply tweaked his groin and he was in the back trying to stretch it out.  He should be good to go later in the week when the Wolves return to action.

While the Pups reserves made a run in the 4th quarter, it was far too little, too late.  Minnesota outscored the Grizzlies 24-18 in the final frame, but it did little to make the final score look much better.  I’ll spare you the details.  This might help paint a picture: Alexey Shved was the Wolves leading scorer in the game with 12 points.

Keys of the Game

  • Shooting– Once again, the Wolves shoot a low percentage (34%) and it completely deflates your hopes of a comeback.  At the same time, they took 24 (?!?!) three point attempts.  This roster is horrific at 3PT shooting and yet they continue to hoist them up.
  • Frontline play – The Grizzlies starting frontline ate up the Wolves tonight.  Prince and Randolph both had double doubles and Marc Gasol looked better than both of them.  None of the Wolves frontline starters scored in double digits and Williams “led” the three Pups with 6 rebounds.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Mike Conley – Dominated the PG matchup tonight against Rubio with 20 points, including 8-14 from the field and 3-6 from long range.  He also added 6 assists and 2 steals, with only 1 turnover.
  2. Marc Gasol – Also dominated his Wolves counterpart.  There has been a good amount of chatter on Pekovic’s forthcoming free agency online.  Tonight’s game didn’t help his cause.
  3. Tayshaun Prince – 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists for the Grizzlies starting SF.  Prince shut down Kirilenko and made a few, key defensive plays in the game to halt small runs by the Wolves.

Preview – Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies 3-18-13

wolves grizz previewSetting the stage:

After a nice win at the Target Center on St. Patrick’s Day, the Timberwolves reward was to get on a plane and head to Memphis for the second of a back-to-back against the Grizzlies.  The two teams have only played once thus far this season, back on 2/11, where the Grizzlies dominated the Wolves and won by a final score of 105-88.

Memphis has had the Wolves number for some time now, winning the last ten meetings between the two teams.  The Grizzlies will also be looking to win their eighth straight on their home court, which would also snap a two game losing streak that they are on.  They are coming off of a loss in Utah on Saturday night, which puts them in a dead heat with the Nuggets for the 4th seed in the Western Conference.

Minnesota received a boost on Sunday with the return of Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic to the starting lineup.  While Pekovic looked solid throughout the game against the Hornets, it looked like Kirilenko was a little rusty.  However, he came up with the key defensive plays at the end of the game to help seal the win for the team.  While he isn’t expected to be ready to play tonight, there are rumblings that Chase Budinger’s return is near as well.

Player to watch:

Zach Randolph – Since returning to the lineup last week, Randolph has been on a tear, averaging 17.3 ppg and 11.3 rpg.  He’ll be facing a vastly improved Derrick Williams and it will be interesting to see what the crafty lefthander can do against an un-caged lion.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Marc Gasol.  Pekovic looked good in his return on Sunday night but did not have a great defensive game against Robin Lopez and Anthony Davis.  He will need to step it up tonight when he faces an underrated center in Marc Gasol.  In the meeting in February, Gasol put up 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.  At the same time, he held Pekovic to only 8 points and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes of action.


Tonight’s game includes a tough travel itinerary and a very tough team/match-up for the Wolves.

Final score prediction: Timberwolves 82, Grizzlies 96

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Marc Gasol
  2. Zach Randolph
  3. Ricky Rubio

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 88, Memphis Grizzlies 105

Recently acquired SF Tayshaun Prince converted on all 8 of his field goal attempts and the Memphis Grizzlies extended the Minnesota Timberwolves road losing streak to 8 games (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Recently acquired SF Tayshaun Prince converted on all 8 of his field goal attempts and the Memphis Grizzlies extended the Minnesota Timberwolves road losing streak to 8 games (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

It looks like Memphis may end up just fine without Rudy Gay. Taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the FedExForum in Memphis, TN, the new-look Grizzlies showed just how dominant they can be with their new pieces acquired in the Rudy Gay blockbuster trade. Recently acquired forwards Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye combined to score 34 points on a ridiculous 14-17 shooting and the Grizzlies went on to blow out the Timberpups 105-88, extending Minnesota’s road losing streak to 8 games.

The Wolves, who stood at 16-15 on January 8 of this year, are now an abysmal 18-30 including a horrific 6-18 on the road. Injuries have depleted Minnesota’s roster and young, high-upside players Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved have been unable to step up in order to keep this team afloat.

JJ Barea was a late scratch for Minnesota with a left foot sprain, and the Timberwolves had a very tough time spacing the floor and creating offense against the defensive-minded Grizzlies.

To add to the Pups’ injury woes, Andrei Kirilenko missed his third consecutive game due to a strained right quadriceps muscle. In his place, Mickael Gelabale got the start at small forward but had a very difficult time defending the long and athletic Prince, who hit all of his 8 field goal attempts in 23 minutes on the court. The other former Detroit Piston, Austin Daye, seems to enjoy his new playoff-destined squad and added 16 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.

Minnesota led the Grizz 21-20 after the first period, but problems with turnovers and transition defense allowed Memphis to hold a 47-37 lead at the half. Memphis, led by head coach Lionel Hollins, did a tremendous job of pressuring the Pups on the perimeter and were able to record 12 steals as a team. More often than not these steals led to fast-breaks for the quick and athletic Grizzlies, and Memphis went on to outscore the Pups on the fast break 20-4. It is awfully difficult to stop Mike Conley and Tony Allen once they are running in transition, and Memphis did a much better job than the Pups of spacing the floor and creating high-percentage  scoring opportunities.

Things only got worse for Minnesota following the break, and the Pups lack of playmakers inhibited their ability to make a legitimate run to get back into the game. With Barea and AK-47 sidelined due to injury, the Wolves essentially lacked even a single player who could create their own shot. Ricky Rubio stepped up and provided 17 points on 6-11 shooting, but tallied only 4 assists as the Memphis defense did a very good job of pouring the help defense on Minnesota’s greatest threat. Shved, who is in the midst of a miserable shooting slump, scored 10 points on 50% shooting and even notched 9 assists, all the while committing 5 turnovers in 31 minutes played.

Apparently Rick Adelman does not think much of new fan-favorite Chris Johnson, who did not play until the fourth-quarter when the game was far of hand. Johnson, who has shot 72% for the Wolves and who owns an impressive 24.83 PER seems to be incapable of proving himself to the veteran head coach. While the sample size is small and the statistics may be skewed in Johnson’s favor, I do not understand the lack of minutes as he has played extremely well in every single opportunity he has been given. At least let him fail before keeping him on the bench for eternity.

Derrick Williams finished with a line of 9 points 0n 4-11 shooting (0-3 3PT), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 25 minutes on the floor. D-Will started at power forward opposite of the much bigger and stronger Zach Randolph, who dominated the former Arizona star on the low block on his way to 16 points and 8 rebounds. While Derrick is technically a power forward, the ways he has been primarily looking to score has been on midrange to three-point jump-shots, and I have noticed a few troubling trends with his shot that may be the leading cause for his poor shooting percentages of late. To begin, when bringing himself to shoot, he has too narrow of a base and a poor center of gravity which allows him to sway and fade on anything besides spotted-up jumpers. Lately, his shoulders have not consistently been square to the basket which has contributed to his lateral accuracy issues. Often times his misses result in misses on either side of the rim, instead of misses that are either too long or too short like K-Love’s. Another troubling trend has been D-Will’s incapacity for penetrating the lane and getting to the free throw lane. Even if nothing is there, the Wolves need more players to get past the opponent’s perimeter defense in order to create opportunities for other Wolves on the perimeter, and too often Derrick receives a pass and stands in place with the ball like a frightened deer in headlights.

Keys of the Game

  • Defense – Memphis recorded 12 steals and Minnesota turned the ball over 19 times which led to easy transition buckets for the home team. The Grizzlies did a great job on the perimeter, namely shooting guard Tony Allen, and disrupted the Wolves system of dribble-exchange in the half-court. This effectively slowed down the Wolves ball movement on offense and led to many more drained shot clocks and contested shots. In the interior Memphis center Marc Gasol and power forward Randolph combined for 17 rebounds and 5 steals while holding Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic to just 8 points in 30 minutes.
  • Ball Movement – Inside and out, the Grizzlies worked to find the open man and continuously found teammates open on backdoor cuts with Minnesota defenders sleeping. With arguably the best passing big man in the game in Gasol on the low block, Memphis dissected the Pups half-court defense and allowed the Grizzlies’ center to record 8 of the team’s 30 assists.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Tayshaun Prince – In his best game as a Grizzly, Prince reminded everyone why it may not be the end of the world for Memphis with Rudy Gay on the wing. The truth is that Gay is receiving max contract dollars and is currently playing below league average in terms of efficiency, and I tip my cap to John Hollinger and the boys of the Memphis brass for ridding the team of a detrimental contract. 
  2. Marc Gasol – Rubio’s close friend and fellow Spanish national teammate nearly had a triple-double of 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists while playing spectacular defense on a great player in Nikola Pekovic. Gasol uses his size, length, and smarts in unison and is worth every dollar that he is being paid.
  3. Mike Conley – Conley logged the most minutes of any Grizzly (36) and did not turn the ball over once while adding 16 points and 8 assists. One of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, Conley and and Tony Allen completely disrupted the Timberwolves backcourt.