It was a tale of two teams. One of which is a younger team in the middle of transition and whose stars are in the middle of an identity crisis, and the other which is a team full of gritty veterans that have exemplified excellent play defensively all season.
The Memphis Grizzlies exited the Target Center in Minnesota with a 100-87 Sunday matinee victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. And legend says that Karl-Anthony Towns is still whining and complaining about it to this day.
If the first quarter was any indication, matinee NBA games should be outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. I’m serious; what I watched was the basketball equivalent of a war crime on my eyes.
Here are a few stats for context: The Wolves led 20-17 at the end of the quarter, which is not unusual for any Grizzlies game. But there were a combined 14 turnovers between both teams. The Wolves could barely put the ball on the court without Kyle Anderson stealing it, who had two steals in the first three minutes. With both teams also shooting below 37%, I was ready to go wash my eyes out and weep bitterly from the display that I had just seen.
Fortunately, the second quarter was much more of an NBA basketball game. Marc Gasol scored 7 straight points near the end of the quarter to help the Grizzlies enter halftime with a 47-43 lead. JaMychal Green also had an immediate impact in his first game back from a broken jaw, totaling 6 points and 7 rebounds in the half.
As it has become a trend so far this season, the Grizzlies were able to create separation in the third quarter through excellent ball-movement and tough physical defense. The Wolves would go 5 minutes without making a field goal before Derrick Rose, who resembled his younger self in the game, made a three with just under 4 minutes remaining in the frame. Jaren Jackson Jr. also had 7 points in the quarter and would finish with 13 points for the game. The Grizzlies would lead 75-62 at the end of the quarter.
After a stagnant start to the fourth in which the Wolves cut the lead to eight on a Dario Saric three-pointer at 78-70, the Grizzlies played consistently excellent basketball the rest of the way. Marc Gasol, or as we will call him after a game like this, WENDIGO, made 3 three-pointers in the frame to finally put the game out of reach. He finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Both of the Grizzlies’ point guards continued their solid play. Mike Conley controlled the pace of the game with precision, totaling 18 points and 9 assists. Shelvin Mack held his own against Derrick Rose (18 points and 3 assists) and finished with 12 points while continuing to manage the second unit effectively.
Kyle Anderson had one of his best nights as a Grizzly. He was signed to be a secondary playmaker, and he was excellent in that role. He had 6 assists while still having his transformative impact on defense, totaling two steals while forcing Andrew Wiggins into a 6-18 shooting night.
The Memphis Grizzlies now move to 10-5, and they are just one game from the first seed in the Western Conference and continue to sit atop the Southwest Division. Their next game will be against the Dallas Mavericks at FedExForum on Monday night.