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Grizzlies-Wolves Preview: Keep the ball rolling

The Grizzlies host a dangerous Wolves team tonight as they try to keep their momentum rolling toward the playoffs. The Grizzlies have split their two previous meetings with the Wolves - can they pull out a win and keep moving up the standings?

2013/2014 NBA Season
41-28 (22-14 home)
Won 1
34-34 (15-20 road)
Lost 2
March 24th, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Ricky Rubio
Courtney Lee SG Kevin Martin
Tayshaun Prince SF Corey Brewer
Zach Randolph PF Kevin Love
Marc Gasol C Gorgui Dieng
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 99.7 (4th)
102.8 (19th) OEff 105.5 (9th)
101.6 (T-8th) DEff 103.6 (13th)
Injury Report

Timberwolves - Nikola Pekovic (Questionable, Ankle)

GrizzliesQuincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Opposing team's blog: Canis Hoopus

Keys to the game

Which Minnesota D shows up? When you look at the Wolves' stats, it's hard to figure out how they aren't in the playoff hunt.  They are 9th best offensive efficiency, 13th best in defensive efficiency, 4th in pace.  They're 9th in rebounding rate, tied for the lowest turnover rate, tied with Memphis for 11th in assist rate.  These are all solid to very good stats.  The biggest issues seems to be consistency, especially on defense.  For example, in the last 5 games they gave up 93 points - a good number at their pace - then followed that with allowing 102, 122, 129,  and 127.   If the T-Wolves show up dialed in on defense, this will likely be a dogfight.

Z-Bo vs. K-Love In their two previous matchups, both Randolph and Love have gotten their stats - Z-Bo averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and Love averaging 29, 12.5 and 3.  Let's be honest - neither of these guys is losing any sleep worrying about his defensive efforts.  They're both scorers and rebounders.  This has been a close matchup each time, with Love coming out with a small advantage on the whole.  Z-Bo once again matching Love's production or coming close will be big for the Grizzlies.

Rubio vs. sagging D Ricky Rubio has been a terrible shooter for most of his career - 36% from the field, 33% from 3 - but over the last month, he's quietly been shooting 47% from the field and 46% from 3.  Given that he's normally not much of a perimeter threat, the Grizzlies' defense might be tempted to sag off of him to help on other scorers (like Kevin Love, for instance) but he's been making teams pay of late.  The Grizzlies will need to play honest D, which may leave more openings for Rubio's unquestionable playmaking ability.  This will be an interesting dynamic to watch.

Gasol vs. Gorgui Dieng Dieng, the Wolves' rookie, is getting starts in place of the injured Nikola Pekovic and is a game removed from a monster 22 point, 21 night against Houston.  Deng also had recorded 3 straight double-doubles before getting limited minutes the last game against the Suns when the Wolves spent a lot of time with a smaller lineup.  He's also long, athletic and quick, which Gasol can struggle some with under the best of circumstances and with his continued recovery from injury, Dieng could provide an especially tough matchup for Marc.

Battle of the benches When Pekovic was healthy, the Timberwolves were going 9-10 deep on a normal basis.  Since Pekovic's injury has thrust one of those bench players into a starting role, the rotation seems to have dropped to 8-9.  With the Grizzlies' ability (though not recent propensity) to go 11 or 12 deep, this should be a matchup the Grizzlies can exploit over the course of the game.

Joe's neat-o facts-o-the-day

Though the Timberwolves are a .500 team, they have already won 3 more games than they did last year in 14 fewer games.

Though Love and Randolph are both excellent rebounders and double-double machines, neither is in the top 15 in the league in rebound rate.  Love is 18th (just one spot ahead of Kosta Koufos) and Zach is 25th.  Love is 2nd-best overall in defensive rebound rate, but is actually very average as an offensive rebounder - he ranks 31st, while Z-Bo is 10th.

The Bottom Line

The previous matchups have not come down to possessions, like so many Grizzly games have.  It has boiled down to who has scored more on the shots they've gotten.  In the T-Wolves' win on December 15th, they hit the Grizzlies for 12 3's on 26 attempts compared to the Grizzlies' 5 made 3's.  In the Grizzlies' win on January 31st , they were held to 6-22 from 3.  With the Wolves' recent defensive struggles, the Grizzlies may be able to simply outscore the Timberwolves, but if they can lock down the Timberwolves, especially from outside, the odds swing heavily in the Griz' favor.  This has all the earmarks of a tough game for the Grizzlies though, and that's what I expect to see.