Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Where: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: 2:30 PM CT
How to Listen: 92.9 ESPN Memphis
How to Watch: FoxSports Southeast
Trail Blazers vs Grizzlies coverage
More from Minnesota: Canis Hoopus
Recently From Minnesota:
The Timberwolves faced off against the Indiana Pacers Friday night and had a three point lead entering the second quarter. However, by the end of the third quarter, Minnesota was down 73-90. But the Timberwolves went on a late run with a 30 point fourth quarter, versus the Pacers' 17 point fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the Wolves, who couldn't finish the comeback. The Pacers won 107-103. Some bright spots for Minnesota included Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, both of whom had 26 points in the match. In addition, rookie Karl-Anthony Towns had 12 points on 5-9 shooting. Minnesota has been without the services of its star point guard, Ricky Rubio, due to a hamstring injury. He remains questionable for the game Sunday.
Recently From Memphis:
The Grizzlies were one Zach Randolph miss away from sitting at 3-7. But fortunately, Z-Bo came to the rescue for the Grizzlies and scored the game-winning put back with .6 seconds left. The Portland Trailblazers made things interesting on Friday night, for sure. They gained a one point lead with 12.5 seconds left in the game. But Zach Randolph wouldn't let the Grizzlies give up the game they'd worked so hard for. Marc Gasol had a season-high 31 points on the night, and Mario Chalmers made his season debut with 11 points and 4 steals. The Grizzlies had built up a double-digit lead and almost gave the game away, but Memphis ended up with enough for a victory as they won the game 101-100. Now, the Grizzlies go back on the road to face a young, athletic Minnesota Timberwolves team. It'll be interesting to see if the Grizzlies can string together a few wins in a row before facing a tough Houston/San Antonio back-to-back next week.
Keys to Victory:
1. Get Mike Conley Going
Mike Conley is having a rough contract year so far. Besides dealing with shooting struggles, Conley appeared to hurt his knee and/or ankle on Friday, but I expect him to play Sunday. While there have been some bright spots, Conley hasn't appeared to be himself overall this year. Neither his offense nor his defense has been at an all-star level. Now, assuming Ricky Rubio is still out, he'll be facing a dynamic but inexperienced Zach LaVine at the point guard position. At 6' 5", LaVine is an athletic guard for Conley to defend. On the year, he's shooting 36.4% from three and averaging 12.3 PPG in his second year in the league. It's pivotal that Conley doesn't allow LaVine to have a career night, and it's equally important for Conley to make an impact on the offensive end as well. With Mario Chalmers now with the Grizzlies, Joerger can utilize the duo on the floor together at times. This lineup allows Conley more off-the-ball action and room to shoot.
2. Dominate the Boards
The Memphis Grizzlies are averaging 41.4 rebounds, which ranks 26th in the league. The Minnesota Timberwolves rank 12th with 45 rebounds per game as a team. In rebounding rate, the Wolves are ranked 6th, and the Grizzlies are 22nd. The Grizzlies got killed on the boards versus the Portland Trailblazers (43-35). They can't allow that to happen against the Timberwolves, especially with players like Karl-Anthony Towns to compete against (he averages 10.3 RPG). Gasol and Randolph need to do a better job at protecting the boards. If Brandan Wright is still out, players like JaMychal Green will once again need to step up on the bench. Green has been reliable for effort on both ends of the court, and he's averaging 4.9 rebounds in only 15.9 minutes per game. The Timberwolves are stacked with young guys who are going to give everything they've got, and the Grizzlies had better do the same on the boards.
3. Courtney Lee vs. Andrew Wiggins
Similar to Conley, it's been an up-and-down year so far for C Lee. He's had only 4 double digit scoring games this season, and the Grizzlies are 3-1 in those games. He's shooting an abysmal 18.9% from three, which you'd think and hope would have to come up to some level of normalcy soon. Lee will be facing second year player in Andrew Wiggins, who is having an impressive season so far. He's averaging 20.5 PPG so far this year. Courtney Lee will be up for a challenge this afternoon, and it would be extremely beneficial for the Grizz if he could get it going and limit Wiggins, who has been the Wolves' star player this year.
It's imperative for the Grizzlies to get this win on the road to follow up after their win on Friday. Memphis needs to show some consistency in their play, and they need their guards to get it rolling on both ends of the floor. If Memphis can tighten up their defense, get good showings from their guards, and dominate the boards, then they have a good chance of walking out of Target Center with a win. It'll be key for the Grizzlies to limit Wiggins, and Marc Gasol needs to have another big night like Friday, especially if Mike Conley continues to struggle.
Memphis 97 Minnesota 94