The Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves will be a blast of a matchup. They’re kind of similar when you think about it. They’re both young and audacious, playing with a lot of swagger, adding a little “ish” talk to the game as well. They’re led by a charismatic young star with a modern big man as the co-star.
It should be a fun series. Between now and 2:30 on Saturday, there will be a lot of takes that fire off on these two teams. So why not we consolidate some of them into this roundtable? I have Ben Hogan (@NotTheGolfer), Bryce Hayes (@nxtprodigy), Parish Sharkey (@daone_pshark), and Matt Gill (@matthgill) with me to talk about the first-round matchup between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves.
1) What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most in this Grizzlies/Timberwolves series?
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming: It has to be Ja Morant and Anthony Edwards. Morant specifically has taken the league by storm with his All-NBA caliber rise this season, playing with a perfect blend of flash, ferocity, and technical savvy. Edwards has the makings to make that same leap soon, and he might emulate Ja’s 2021 playoffs by giving that “year 3 preview” this series. They are both also two of the most charismatic stars in the game on and off the court. This series could be more tape on why the league is in good hands for a long time.
GBB Senior Staff Writer Ben Hogan: The one thing that I’m most looking forward to is the trash talk between the teams. Patrick Beverley would trash talk a five-year old kid and not think twice. This Grizzlies team has gotten under the skin of many opponents this season with their confidence and swagger. There is going to be a lot of back and forth I imagine, and that’s what makes a rivalry and a playoff series interesting. We need a villain to boo, and that’s easily Pat Bev, but there another player or two that will find a way to get under the skin of Grizz fans. Could this be the beginning of another rivalry that blossomed during the playoffs, ala Clippers and OKC during Grit Grind? We shall see.
GBB Staff Writer Bryce Hayes: Two future faces of the league going at it with their teams finally at full strength in Anthony Edwards and Ja Morant. Also how this group responds to the their first playoff run with true expectations placed upon them.
Host of “The Starting 5” podcast Parish Sharkey: Pat Beverley and Dillon Brooks sharing the court together.
GBB Staff Writer Matt Gill: I’m most looking forward to seeing this team at full strength. The lineup of Morant, Bane, Brooks, Jackson Jr., and Adams started just nine games together this season and the last time we saw them against New Orleans, man did they look good. In the 141-114 win the Grizzlies shot 58.9% from the field, 51.4% from three, and had 41 assists on 53 made baskets. It was really fun team basketball to watch, and barring any further injuries I’m really excited to see this team play together for an entire series and playoff run. I doubt they’ll have as much success as they did in that Pelicans game, but just to have everybody available makes the Grizzlies better, despite their record this season without key guys.
2) Who’s the Grizzlies’ biggest x-factor in this matchup?
Fleming: For this matchup specifically, it’s Dillon Brooks. I have a different answer for overall x-factor. The Grizzlies had their struggles with the Timberwolves, particularly with D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. In the 4-game series this season, they didn’t have Brooks. Having their premier stopper should help keep those guys in check should alleviate those issues a bit. At the same time, he takes pressure off Morant and Bane for offensive creation with his mid-range prowess and his budding playmaking.
Hogan: Dillon Brooks is the Grizzlies x-factor in this matchup. He has yet to play against the T-Wolves this season, but is 8-1 lifetime against Minnesota. He will probably be tasked with keeping up with Anthony Edwards, and that assignment could go a long way in determining this series. As long as he keeps his emotions in check, DB and DB Island should thrive.
Hayes: That’s a multi-tiered answer due to how the Wolves roster is constructed. Wolves bench is very flash in the pan, so the Grizzlies bench has to show up on both ends and don’t let guys like Malik Beasley heat up. Then there’s Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks. They’re going to need to be physical with a young Wolves team that isn’t physical whatsoever. Grizzlies haven’t faced the Wolves at full strength this season, but maintaining their standard of fast-paced, yet physical, ball should handle a team that feels accomplished by making it to the playoffs — the Grizzlies have higher aspirations than jumping on the scorer’s table after winning a game (1).
Sharkey: De’Anthony Melton. If he can continue that shooting streak he ended the season on he answers one of the biggest questions about Grizzlies shooting.
Gill: Dillon Brooks is the biggest x-factor for the Grizzlies. A lot has been made about the Grizzlies struggles against Minnesota this year. First of all, they went 2-2 I don’t think that’s something that we should be sounding the alarms for in the first place. Second, Dillon Brooks didn’t play in any of the four games, and Dillon Brooks’ career record against Minnesota? 8-1. The other part of the equation is Brooks is the best perimeter defender for Memphis, and we saw against the Clippers that either Anthony Edwards or D’Angelo Russell has the ability to carry that team offensively. Against the Grizzlies this season, Russell averaged 31 points while Edwards averaged 21.6 on 51.4% shooting. With Brooks back in the lineup for Memphis, one of those guys is going to find it much more difficult to score at will.
3) The Grizzlies will have a hard time with the Timberwolves if…
Fleming: D’Angelo Russell keeps up his moniker of “Grizz Killer.” As mentioned in Matt’s answer early, Russell has been sizzling against the Grizzlies. Towns and Edwards should get theirs, but if they fail to keep Russell in check and let him explode too, it gives the Grizzlies a medium-sized obstacle in their hopes to advancing the next round.
Hogan: Jaren Jackson Jr. gets into foul trouble. He is the type of the quicker defender that can give KAT fits. Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke are a lot better being used as help defenders with Trip on KAT instead of the main guy.
Hayes: The Grizzlies can’t stay out of foul trouble, looking at Dillon Brooks especially, and limit Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell getting to their spots the series can and will go longer than it should. Also, don’t let let Patrick Beverley control the vibes - the Grizzlies do a good job of controlling the tempo and temperament of the game and if that continues it’ll be short work in Round 1.
Sharkey: The 3 point shot doesn’t fall consistently.
Gill: Karl-Anthony Towns is hitting outside shots. One of the things I’ve noticed this season is the Grizzlies don’t defend well against stretch bigs. Teams like Boston with Al Horford and the Knicks with Julius Randle have had the most success against Memphis. The reason is that when Jaren Jackson Jr. is pulled out to the perimeter on these bigger, versatile big men he can’t help on drivers as well to alter or block shots. KAT struggled in the play-in game but I don’t expect for him to struggle like that for an entire series against Memphis. Another factor to watch out for is Jackson’s foul trouble, JJJ has struggled all season to stop fouling and there’s going to be at least one game this series he fouls out and the Grizzlies will be at a disadvantage late in a game.
4) The Grizzlies will take care of business against the Timberwolves if…
Fleming: Their strength in numbers prevails. The Timberwolves have a solid bench — Malik Beasley, Naz Reid, and Jaden McDaniels stand out. The Grizzlies bench has had their way in these matchups though, as we’ve seen secondary explosions from guys like Brandon Clarke, Ziaire Williams, and John Konchar in the season series. If Memphis can maintain the status quo there, they should be chilling on their way to round 2.
Hogan: The Grizzlies will take care of business against the Timberwolves if they just play their game. We’ve seen time and time again this season that if the Grizzlies just play within themselves, they can beat the best in the league. The Grizzlies starting five is better and its bench is deeper. As long as they don’t let Patrick Beverly get inside their heads, they should move on to the second round.
Hayes: Grizzlies win this series pretty handily if they’re as physical as they normally are — specifically with KAT — and unlike in the regular season shoot their normal shooting numbers. Don’t play down to the competition and hoop they can breeze through this one.
Sharkey: They play their style and don’t get complacent.
Gill: If the Grizzlies can hit outside shots they’ll win this series. Minnesota made the most total three-point shots this season and were 12th in three-point percentage. By contrast, Memphis took 266 fewer three-point attempts this season than Minnesota and were 17th in percentage. The Timberwolves will take and make a ton of threes this series but it shouldn’t mean that the Grizzlies change their game plan to try and keep pace with Minnesota. They just need to stick to their gameplan, dominating the interior and getting out in transition and Memphis should take care of business.
5) Who wins this series and how many games does it go?
Fleming: I could see Grizzlies in 5, but I’m going to say Grizzlies in 6 instead. The Timberwolves are talented enough to snatch 2 games. Maybe it’s a thing where each home team takes the game until game 6.
Hogan: Grizzlies in 6. I’m sure this will probably the most popular answer, as the Grizzlies have had their struggles against Minnesota, so I could see the T-Wolves winning a couple. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Grizz took it in 5.
Hayes: Grizzlies in 5.
Sharkey: Grizzlies in 5 (if that).
Gill: This is Grizzlies in 5 games to me. Minnesota has a lot of nice players and are where the Grizzlies were last year. But just like Memphis, Minnesota is going to have to get beat up a little bit before they learn how to win a playoff series like Memphis is going to do this season after getting beaten by Utah in five games last year. I’m also happy for Minnesota fans and players that got to celebrate the play-in win on Wednesday, but they celebrated like they had won game seven of the Finals, and it’s tough to get back up for a seven-game series after that.
I also think we’re about to see Memphis at the best they’ve been all season in these first two games. The starters will have had almost an entire week’s rest before suiting up on Saturday, and with their full roster ready to go, the Grizzlies will be tough to beat especially with a home-court advantage.