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Opening Night Preview: How will the Memphis Grizzlies deploy the wings against Minnesota?

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Finally, after an off-season of tumultuous front office movement and roster tweaks, the Memphis Grizzlies are back. The first game of the season, in the friendly confines of FedEx Forum, welcomes the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves to the Bluff City. How can the Grizzlies give Memphis something to celebrate on Beale Street on opening night?

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Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
2014/15 NBA Regular Season

0-0 (0-0 home)

0-0 (0-0 road)
October 29th, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Ricky Rubio
Courtney Lee SG Kevin Martin
Tony Allen
SF Andrew Wiggins
Zach Randolph PF Thaddeus Young
Marc Gasol C Nikola Pekovic
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 99.8 (4th)
103.3 (T-16th) OEff 105.6 (10th)
102.1 (T-7th) DEff 104.1 (T-14th)

Minnesota- SF Shabazz Muhammad (heel), G Andrew Wiggins (back)- PROBABLE: Likely to Play.

Memphis- SG Courtney Lee (ankle)- PROBABLE: Likely to play.

For more information about the Minnesota Timberwolves, check out Canis Hoopus.


Finally, the day Memphis Grizzlies and their fans have been waiting for since May 3rd, 2014. Since being sent home from the NBA Playoffs after a battle of a series against the ultra-talented Oklahoma City Thunder, a lot has transpired for the Grizzlies. Front office upheaval, possible coaching changes, "controversial" first round draft picks and new free agent faces. D-League partnerships, contract extension discussions, trade machine creations. The uncertainty of the off-season has given way to one undisputed fact; barring an unforeseen calamity, there will be a meaningful NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tennessee tonight involving the Memphis Grizzlies.


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A team that makes the changes in Memphis look like a slow and steady trip down the mighty Mississippi River is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Part of this process was a flirtation with the Grizzlies' Head Coach Dave Joerger. Minny eventually settled on, in a roundabout way, themselves; President of Basketball Operations, part-owner and now Head Coach Flip Saunders leads a team into the 2014-2015 campaign who returns "11 of their top 13 players" from 2013-2014. However, outside of J.J. Barea there is one big, notable piece who moved on- Kevin Love, to Cleveland.

The new faces for the Timberwolves, including 1st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins, will be counted on heavily tonight against a Grizzlies team with a hot start in mind. How does Memphis get there? Three keys to the Grizzlies winning its first opening night game ever as the Memphis Grizzlies.

1. Contain the New Versatile Wings

Minnesota has several new players who could provide match-up issues for the Grizzlies on the wing. Andrew Wiggins, whether he starts or not, will want to start his career off right and show that he was deserving of all that hype. He, former 1st overall pick Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young (formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers) bring athleticism, length and explosiveness that the Grizzlies do not possess. Memphis must depend on great rim protection from Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos and solid help defense to prevent penetration and mismatches being taken advantage of.

Expect to see a lot of Tony Allen, Courtney Lee and Quincy Pondexter as Memphis attempts to counter the athleticism of Minnesota. The beauty of wing depth is that every night you can lean on different guys when necessary; Vince Carter will play, and play a good bit if he can hang with the youth of the T'Wolves. If not? Let the younger Grizzly defenders take on more time.

Of course, a guy still capable of plays like this probably will be just fine.

2. Don't Let Kevin Martin Beat You

Speaking of mismatches, it seems like whenever Kevin Martin plays the Grizzlies it is a mismatch regardless of who is defending him. Here is Kevin Martin in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals dropping 25 on the Grizzlies as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And here he is in 2010 as a Houston Rocket scoring 34 on Memphis.

And of course, last season with the TImberwolves he was no slouch either.

Multiple jerseys, multiple seasons, multiple Grizzly slayings at the hands of Kevin Martin. The unique scorer gives Memphis fits. Finding him at all times defensively, locking him down with a variety of defenders (especially Tony Allen) and forcing him to work when Memphis is on offense are all potential strategies to offset his effectiveness. He cannot be allowed to get open looks or looks in transition; make him earn every score.

3. Get "Easy" Points

Just because Martin should earn his points doesn't mean that the Grizzlies should have to. As Memphis attempts to climb the offensive efficiency rankings, the quickest way to achieve that goal is to better convert on the opportunities that present themselves.

Turnover transition opportunities, open jumpers, "bunnies" or easy layups, free throw conversions. A team like the Grizzlies, who have in some way, shape or form over the years missed on multiple opportunities like the ones listed, needs as many of these points as they can get. If Memphis can increase their free throw attempts and transition chances in particular, Minnesota will be on the defensive all night.

The Prediction

The Grizzlies have not won an opening night game since arriving in Memphis. The Timberwolves will provide unique challenges; the wings are athletic, the bigs are glass cleaning rebounders and Ricky Rubio always can complicate even the best of defensive gameplans with his ability to facilitate.

However, on this night Marc Gasol will give Minnesota's big men fits, Vince Carter will help the Grizzlies 2nd unit build a lead and the streak of opening night losses will end for the Grizzlies.


Memphis 98, Minnesota 92


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