WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: JaMychal Green (Questionable- knee), , Omri Casspi (Out, knee), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Garrett Temple (Out, shoulder), Chandler Parsons (Out, still mad at Chris Wallace)
Minneasota: Derrick Rose (Questionable, ankle), Robert Covington (Out, knee), Tyus Jones (Out, ankle), Jeff Teague (Out, Foot)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Jevon Carter, Justin Holiday, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
MINNESOTA: Andrew Wiggins, Jerryd Bayless, Josh Okogie, Taj Gibson, Karl Anthony-Towns
Last week, I mentioned the Grizzlies worse loss in franchise history was a 61 point defeat in Charlotte in March of 2018. Statistically, that truth certainly remains. However, Monday night’s loss to Denver could arguably be considered a worse defeat in general. Giving up a 25 point lead in potentially the last home game for Marc Gasol and/or Mike Conley, the dismay and disappointment was deafening.
However, there are more games to play. Tonight, the Grizzlies head to the Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves. It is certainly true that the only thing colder than the Grizzlies, who have lost 15 of their last 17, right now will be the weather in Minneapolis.
If one needs a glimmer of hope, there are a few statistical facts in the Grizzlies favor. This will be the 14th Wednesday game of the season for Memphis, and their tenth against a Northwestern division opponent. The Grizzlies are 7-6 on Wednesdays this year, and 5-4 against Northwestern foes. This marks the only day of the week and the only division against which Memphis has a winning record. Discount the validity of those stats all you want; at the moment, the Grizzlies will take any advantage they can get
The Grizzlies must quickly return to the effective team ball they played in the first half against the Nuggets. It reminded many of how Memphis played to begin the year. That cohesiveness will certainly be needed against the Timberwolves. One of the few teams that could match the Grizzlies’ season of turmoil, Minnesota enters the game 24-26, including going 5-5 in the first ten games of the Ryan Saunders era.
Saunders, son of the late Flip Saunders, has brought a bit of stability to a team that certainly disappointed under Tom Thibadeau. Discarding a 42-point loss back on January 15th, Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have net +57 and +47 ratings since Saunders took over. Minnesota ranks 11th in offensive rating in the league, and has scored more than 100 points in 18 straight contests. The Grizzlies will have to be crisp and effective on offense to have a good chance to win.
Along with needing to be consistent on offense, here a few specific points of emphasis for Memphis tonight…
LOCATE AND LIMIT KAT ON REBOUNDS.
When you focus on an opponent’s best player, you typically focus on limiting their scoring to give you a better chance to win. For Karl- Anthony Towns, that truth certainly remains true. However, the Timberwolves team success actually correlates more favorably with Towns’ rebounding ability. Towns has grabbed 5 or more offensive rebounds in 10 games this year, and 14 or more total rebounds in 17 games. Respectively, Minnesota is 8-2 and 14-3 in those scenarios. When KAT is dominating the boards, the Timberwolves are extremely tough to beat. The Grizzlies must focus on boxing him out at all times.
SLOW THE PACE.
Minnesota's current ranks in five team categories:
5th in field goal attempts
5th in offensive rebounds
3rd in fewest turnovers committed
10th in turnovers created
22nd in field goal percentage
These figures prove Minnesota beats teams based on the quantity of their possessions instead of the quality. They take care of the ball, create extra looks, and force their opponents to make mistakes. However, if the Grizzlies can slow Minnesota's pace, the quality of each possession becomes more important.
Furthermore, it exploits Minnesota's lack of efficient shooting. Back on November 18th, the Grizzlies limited Minnesota to only 80 attempts from the field instead of the 91 they average for the season. In that 100-87 win for Memphis, the Timberwolves shot 39%. If the Grizzlies take care of the ball and slow the game down, they can force Minnesota to play more half-court offense. With Kyle Anderson back, this will give Memphis an easier time to play effective team defense, which greatly improves the Grizzlies’ chance to win.
MAKE WIGGINS SHOOT.
While Andrew Wiggins is certainly a talent to focus on, letting him shoot actually can be a source of success for the Grizzlies. In the 12 games that Wiggins has taken more than 20 shots, he has shot better than 40% only 4 times. In the 13 games that Wiggins has attempted more than 5 threes, Minnesota is 5-8. If Memphis can force Minnesota to trade some Towns touches for long Wiggins jumpers, the Grizzlies may find themselves with a lead to protect late in the game.
With improved wing depth and defensive production over the past three games, Memphis has the ability to make life difficult for the Timberwolves. If Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson Jr. can limit Towns’ productivity, Mike Conley should be able to create an advantage on the perimeter to create enough offense to win.
Final Score: Memphis 101, Minnesota 95