The Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves face off this afternoon at Target Center in Minnesota. To give Grizzly Bear Blues a better preview of today’s matchup we chatted with Eric In Madison, Site Manager of SB Nation’s Canis Hoopus for five questions about today’s matchup.
1.) The Minnesota Timberwolves are sitting seventh in the Western Conference after a 10-8 start to the regular season. From the outside looking in, it seems like the Wolves have been producing well! As someone that covers the Wolves everyday, what was expectation heading into this season? Is the team exceeding expectations? What is the early feedback?
It’s been good so far. The Vegas over/under settled around 36 wins for the Wolves prior to the season, which felt about right to me, and they are obviously ahead of that pace. The schedule has been easier than it will be going forward, but still, they’ve been fun to watch. They are playing fast, the defense is improved, and there appears to be real cohesion within the squad. It’s actually fun basketball, which is something we haven’t seen in a while. Tom Thibodeau in charge definitely meant a joy tax, which isn’t the case anymore. Very happy with how the season has started.
2.) Andrew Wiggins has been absolutely killing it to start the season. Wiggins is averaging 25 points per game, three assists, and five rebounds. Wiggins is shooting 46.8 percent from the field. What has Wiggins finally living up to the hype? Can he sustain those early season numbers?
Yeah, so someone, apparently Ryan Saunders, finally got through to Wiggins that pull up 20 footers are not good shots. He’s taking a lot more threes and paint shots, far fewer long twos, which absolutely killed his efficiency in past years. He’s getting more driving opportunities with a more open lane, and while he isn’t always getting all the way to the rim, he’s getting into floater range, which has been a good weapon for him. He’s also shown a willingness to kick the ball out to open shooters. I don’t know that he’ll continue at this level, but I do think at least some of this improvement is real.
3.) Sitting at 10-8 with some up and down games - what can the Wolves get better at to make them a consistent force in the Western Conference?
The biggest problem for the Wolves right now is their three point shooting. They have embraced the three this year for the first time in their history, for which I am very thankful, but they were unable to acquire good shooters in the off season. So they are taking them, but not making them. It’s a start, but a huge key for them going forward is going to be to find some shooters, especially on the wing.
4.) Focusing on today’s afternoon matchup in Minnesota, the Timberwolves lead the NBA in pace, and Memphis isn’t a stranger to pushing pace with Ja Morant and Tyus Jones. Memphis is just getting used to pushing the pace, but for Minnesota, is this something new? Was pace something the Wolves focused on coming into this season? Has it been a success?
Absolutely part of the new regime’s plan was pace and space, and it’s generally worked, other than the shooting discussed above. Sounds like Morant will be out, which is a huge disappointment for me because I enjoy watching him, but yes, the Wolves will push at any opportunity. They will try to get early offense looks for Towns either at the arc or on quick post ups, or hit Wiggins where he can drive before the defense is set. It’s been a fun brand of basketball.
5.) The last question is simple: What are you predictions for today’s game? Is there a matchup that you’re intrigued by?
You guys handed us a pretty bad loss earlier in the season--my memory of that game is that it was a poor defensive game for the Wolves along with a night when the Grizzlies just couldn’t miss. Very frustrating. While the Wolves have been better on the road than at home (that loss to your guys was one of only 2 road losses so far.) I’m hopeful the Wolves get their revenge today. No Morant is one less weapon for the Grizzles, and realistically at this point the Wolves are a better team. They need to take care of business. Not sure about a match up, but will be happy to see Tyus Jones back at Target Center, and Brandon Clarke is my favorite rookie in this class, so I’ll enjoy watching him.
The Memphis Grizzlies will tip off in Minnesota for an afternoon game at 2:00 CT. A huge thank you to Erick in Madison for stopping by for Five Questions. For all things Timberwolves make sure you give our friends a follow (@canishoopus). For all of your Grizzlies news follow (@SBNGrizzlies).