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Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves Opening Night Game Preview

It is finally here! Meaningful basketball is back in Memphis! But with injury concerns looming, how exciting will opening night be for the Grizzlies as the Timberwolves come to town?

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (0-0, 0-0 home) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (0-0, 0-0 road)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS- Chandler Parsons (knee, out), Brandan Wright (ankle, out), Tony Allen (knee, out)

MINNESOTA- NONE

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Memphis- Mike Conley, James Ennis, Vince Carter (?), JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

Minnesota- Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Karl-Anthony Towns


It’s opening night in Memphis, but don’t you dare tell any of the Grizzlies to “break a leg.” They may take it literally.

The health concerns of last season have, at least for the time being, followed the Grizzlies in to the start of the 2016-2017 campaign. Three players are on the injury report without having yet played a meaningful game, with the biggest name being that of major free agent signing Chandler Parsons. Parsons has been a full participant in the Grizzlies practices of late, and Memphis insists they are being cautious. But for a team with a long and distinguished injury history, and a player with one as well, this has to be concerning.

For tonight, Memphis must find a way to win without Parsons, Tony Allen, and Brandan Wright against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that is on the rise in the Western Conference. Karl-Anthony Towns leads a young roster that is talented, athletic, and explosive. With new Head Coach Tom Thibodeau taking the reigns of the organization in the wake of the tragic passing of Flip Saunders, there is reason for optimism in Minnesota after a season of mourning.

The Grizzlies have their hands full tonight. How can they slow down the young and hungry Wolves? A couple of keys.

Gasol Negates KAT

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

These are two of the best four or five big men in the NBA. Period. Gasol appears to be healthy and ready to return to All-NBA form this season, and with the latest wrinkle to his game (he shot 6-13, or 46.2%, from beyond the arc in his last five preseason games) he becomes all the more dangerous to opposing defenses. Gasol the creator could come out in full force if teams honor his new found range- passing to cutters and perimeter players off of screens from three point land can make all the difference for Memphis’ offense.

But while Gasol is close to out of his prime, Towns is far from even starting his and is already one of the NBA’s best bigs. In his last four games of the preseason he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds on 51.2% shooting while also making 92.3% of his free throws. He attempted 17 shots from the charity stripe against Memphis last Wednesday in the preseason finale and converted all 17.

Gasol must defend Towns without fouling. Marc must make him work on the defensive end of the floor by attacking from the high post and converting when he attempts threes. While Marc may not put up the video game stat line, he must find a way to make sure Towns doesn’t either. A draw in this match-up helps Memphis.

Conley Must Shine

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The $153 million man for the Memphis Grizzlies has less formidable opponents tonight than his good buddy Gasol. Conley will be directly matched up against Ricky Rubio and potential Rookie of the Year candidate Kris Dunn for much of the evening, with perhaps a dash of Zach LaVine in there as well. While those two or three players are talented and surely will not be push overs, they are not on Conley’s level when Mike is on his game.

He has to take advantage of the space that is given to him in the schemes of David Fizdale. Mike should be attacking the rim early and often, forcing defenders to help off their man and either foul Conley on his way to the tin or allow for “Captain Clutch” to dish out to someone on the perimeter to find an open shot. When playing off the ball (which hopefully he will) he must have a scorer’s mentality, taking pressure off the younger/less experienced guards he will be playing with.

“The Conductor” must be a maestro tonight and orchestrate a complete performance, protecting the ball while creating for himself and others.

The Prediction

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies have won one opening night game in their history. One. They are 1-14 in opening night games since they have arrived in the Bluff City. That is the bad news when it comes to the Grizzlies and their first contest of the season over the course of their time in Memphis.

The good news? That one win came in 2014, at home, against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In order for history to repeat itself, Memphis must contain Karl-Anthony Towns, keep the athletic Wolves out of transition, and find ways to get themselves easy buckets- create turnovers, get to the free throw line, etc.

History says Memphis loses their openers...unless it is against the Timberwolves. I am sticking with history tonight. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph will carry the day and Memphis will be 2-14 on opening night by the end of this game, and 2-0 against Minnesota in those contests.

MEMPHIS 108, MINNESOTA 104

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