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Preview: Grizzlies @ Timberwolves, 4/17/12

Muskies, huh?
Muskies, huh?

Tonight the Grizzlies travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. Both teams are going to be missing players: the Grizzlies lost Marc Gasol to a bone bruise in his knee in Sunday night’s hideous slugfest loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Already missing the phenomenal Ricky Rubio for the rest of the season, the Timberwolves are likely to be missing Kevin Love (concussion) and former Grizz Darko Milicic, who’s missed several games with a strained right hamstring.

The Timberwolves got obliterated in Indianapolis last night, losing to the Pacers 111–88. They trailed 64–30 at the half. For whatever reason, they just didn’t have it together.

The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are coming off a disjointed, ugly loss to the Hornets on Sunday night in which Zach Randolph only attempted 2 field goals and only made one of them. Overall the team shot 35%; the whole thing felt like a return to their form of a couple of weeks ago, shooting poorly and missing that extra gear of defensive intensity that can carry them through rough stretches on offense.

It would be a mistake for the Grizzlies to think they can waltz into Minnesota and get a win, though. The Grizzlies have beaten the ’Wolves all three times they’ve played this year, but never by more than 7 points. Just because they’re banged up doesn’t mean they’re not pissed about last night and looking to prove something. Of course, by the same token, last night’s blowout loss may have been a sign that the Timberwolves have checked out on the remainder of the season, ready to get into the off-season and get healthy to make a run next year. When Rubio was healthy, they were a playoff-caliber team, which has to be heartening for their long-suffering fanbase.

With any luck, the Gasol injury means Randolph can move back to the starting lineup where he belongs – not that he’s played poorly off the bench, but an All Star-caliber player is only going to be content to do that for so long. It’ll be interesting to see whether that has a negative effect on Marreese Speights’ game, although he may move over to start at center tonight. Tony Allen is finally back from his (horrific) facial laceration, but having him back wasn’t enough Sunday night in New Orleans. Maybe the combination of starting ZBo and having TA rested and healthy will be enough to secure an easy win for the Grizzlies – but then again, has this team had any easy wins this year?

Prediction: The Grizzlies win this one, but if this year has taught us anything, it’s that they’ll let the Timberwolves hang around much longer than they should. Look for them to pull away after halftime.

(More Timberwolves coverage at Canis Hoopus.)