WHERE: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Minnesota-Zach LaVine (Questionable, knee); Kris Dunn (Out, wrist); Adreian Payne (Out, foot); Nikola Pekovic (Out, foot)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
Memphis- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Minnesota-Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng, Karl-Anthony Towns
The Memphis Grizzlies have had a long, exhausting road stretch. As they sit at 3-2 currently, a win tonight would secure an above .500 record on this road trip for Memphis. That would be a success in many people’s eyes, and it would help erase the bad memories of what was last night in Oklahoma City as the Grizz failed to stop Russell Westbrook in the end to secure victory.
Luckily, the NBA is a short-term memory sport. It’s onto the next one as the Grizzlies traveled from OKC to Minneapolis within 24 hours to compete against the youthful but struggling Timberwolves.
At this point, the Grizzlies are ready to return home. But they can’t let the thought of returning to the Bluff City on Monday cause them to overlook this athletic TWolves team.
How can Memphis finish their road trip strong and finish it with a win?
Dominate The Boards
This season, the Timberwolves are ranked 4th in the league in offensive rebounding rate at 26.9. On the other side, the Grizzlies are ranked 10th at 24.4. Memphis leads the Timberwolves in defensive rebounding rate, as Memphis is ranked 4th and Minnesota is 11th.
However, the Wolves are ranked 4th in overall rebounding rate at 51.4, while the Grizz sit at 11th (50.7). It’s going to be pivotal that Memphis prevents Minnesota from getting second chance points, as well as long defensive rebounds that result in fastbreak points.
Last night in OKC, the Grizzlies got dismantled on the boards, 48-29. This was definitely one of the negative contributing factors to Memphis’ meltdown last night. In today’s match, they can’t allow the athletic TWolves to do the same thing on the boards as the Thunder did last night. JaMychal Green, for one, will have to step up. Yesterday he had 0 points and 4 rebounds.
Zach Randolph continues to be a double-double machine, and his rebounding skills will definitely be relied on tonight. But he can’t carry the load alone.
Crank Up The Defensive Effort
In their previous eleven losses, the Grizzlies have allowed their opponent to score 100 or more points. In their past five wins, Memphis has kept their opponent under 100 points.
There’s an obvious trend here.
Sure, it’s great when Memphis scores 100 points. Oftentimes, that results in a win. But a more consistent success formula lately is when the Grizzlies hold their opponent to less than 100. The Grizzlies aren’t abysmal from three anymore, which is nice, but their defense still has to be their identity. When Memphis tightens up their defense, everything else typically starts to fall into place.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have both been having high-caliber performances, and the Grizzlies are shooting as a team better from beyond the arc (but still rank 19th in the league).
However, it’s crucial that the Grizzlies maintain their defensive identity, especially against this Timberwolves team that will look to run the ball and utilize their athleticism with players like Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Marc Gasol vs. Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns is having a career-high year following his rookie year. This season, he’s averaging 23 PPG, 11.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Although his team is struggling in the competitive Western Conference, Towns is continuing to shine alongside Andrew Wiggins, who is also having an impressive year.
Towns can take advantage of most teams in the paint, but the opponent he’ll face tonight poses quite a challenge on both ends of the court.
Marc Gasol has been on a progressive tear this season in so many ways. He’s shooting more and scoring more than ever before. On the season, he’s averaging 20.8 PPG. He’s also averaging 16.1 field goal attempts per game, which is a career high. And finally, he’s made 75 three pointers already this season, another career high.
Karl-Anthony Towns has some range to his game as well, however, as he’s made 58 threes already and is shooting 83.5% from the free throw line.
Watching these two compete is always entertaining, and it should be especially so tonight after the extremely impressive performances Marc has been showcasing nightly the past few weeks.
These two teams are polar opposites in some ways. The Memphis Grizzlies are an older veteran team looking to make another deep playoff run, while the Minnesota Timberwolves are a young athletic team that is on the upside but still rebuilding and perhaps need more veteran leadership.
Both teams will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back this evening, and the Grizzlies are surely eager to return to Memphis after such a grueling trip.
If the Grizzlies don’t look ahead to Monday night’s showdown against the San Antonio Spurs, that will help with their chances tonight. Marc Gasol will need to help contain Towns, and the Grizzlies have to protect the boards. If they can do these things, then Memphis has a good chance of ending their road trip on a high note.
Memphis 101 Minnesota 92