WHAT: 2022 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference 1st Round Game Two (Minnesota leads series 1-0)
WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBATV/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
BETTING INFORMATION (per DraftKings): Memphis (-7), Over/Under 241
MEMPHIS: Santi Aldama (Questionable, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, back)
MINNESOTA: Taurean Prince (Questionable, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
MINNESOTA: Patrick Beverley, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, Karl-Anthony Towns
The Grizzlies look to rebound following Saturday’s disappointing loss in Game One to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis lacked energy from the opening tip, with the Timberwolves taking an advantage and early lead. The Grizzlies had a couple of runs in them to tie the game up at multiple points, but couldn’t ever really get over the hump and take a lead. The Timberwolves executed their game plan well, and made life difficult for the Grizzlies. Memphis played tight the entire game, instead of playing loose and having fun like we’ve seen them do so many times this season.
The Grizzlies offense was sluggish most of the game, while the Wolves got a hot performance from Anthony Edwards, who went off for 36 points on 12-23 shooting in his playoff debut. Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from an abysmal Play-In game against the Clippers with a 29 point, 13 rebound performance. The duo combined for 25 of the Wolves 41 first quarter points.
Memphis fans know better than anyone, though, that Game One isn’t always a testament to how the series goes. The Grizzlies won Game One in Utah last season, before dropping 4 straight to the Jazz. Here are some keys for the Grizzlies to turn things around in tonight’s Game Two.
A Fast Start
The Timberwolves benefited from a hot start shooting the ball, taking a 41-33 lead after the first 12 minutes. The Wolves were up double digits by the midway point of the quarter as the Grizzlies looked like a team that hadn’t played a live basketball game in a week. The team naturally looked a little rusty to start, especially considering it was Ja’s second game in basically a month. Memphians know how wild FedExForum can get, and the Grizzlies have used that momentum in the past to carry themselves to victory. Minnesota kept the Forum quiet early and was able to respond to the Memphis runs to help keep the crowd mostly a non-factor.
The Grizzlies need to get out to a solid start to keep the Forum vibing, as well as to put pressure on the Timberwolves. The Wolves cracked under pressure, at home nonetheless, in the first quarter against the Clippers in the Play-In game. Memphis needs to apply pressure on the young Timberwolves squad and crush their hope early and often. The Wolves will fight all game long, but if Memphis can build an early lead they should be able to force the Wolves to play tight, just like Memphis did on Saturday.
More than the Ja Morant show
Saturday’s game in a way reminded me of Ja Morant’s first game back following his knee injury against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that loss, the Grizzlies did a ton of standing around while Ja attacked in isolation as the Thunder packed the paint. On Saturday, Ja was certainly aggressive but often the offense wound up being “Ja or nothing”. Ja was effective at drawing contact and getting to the line, where he finished 16-20 from the charity stripe. It’s still not a game plan the Grizzlies should rely on. Going iso-Ja in crunch time has worked many times in the past, but it rarely goes the Grizzlies way when it feels like Ja is being isolated the entire game. The Grizzlies will need to be more impactful sharing the basketball.
The Grizzlies 25 assists on 39 made baskets looks solid on paper with 64% of their made baskets coming off assists, but the team’s 23% shooting on unassisted baskets isn’t good at all. The Wolves limited Ja to 3-13 from the field after the first quarter, showing a solid defensive adjustment to the Grizzlies attack.
The Grizzlies didn’t get great offensive efforts outside of Ja, Dillon and Brandon Clarke so Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton all need to have better games than they did in Game One. The Grizzlies offense is at it’s best when “everybody eats” and struggles when Ja is one of the only aggressors on the offensive end.
Not mentioned above is the poor game Coach of the Year Finalist Taylor Jenkins had in Game One. Some of his decisions were questionable, including him having Steven Adams guard Karl-Anthony Towns from the jump as well as the light minutes load the starters had. His adjustments will be critical to the Grizzlies success, and I expect him and the team to rebound big time. JJJ, BC and Kyle Anderson should really be the only 3 to guard KAT on the defensive end, while using Adams (or one of BC/JJJ if sharing the floor together) as a safety or center fielder protecting the rim in any minutes Jarred Vanderbilt is sitting in the corner. That strategy helped the Clippers make KAT look helpless in the Play-In, and although he likely won’t play that bad the rest of the season, the Grizzlies need to make things more difficult for KAT.
Jenkins went with his standard 10-man rotation in both halves of the games. This is fine if the bench is playing well, but overall the bench wasn’t great. BC and Kyle were helpful, and Ziaire Williams had a nice run in the first half but ultimately the bench, specifically De’Anthony Melton, needs to be better. If they aren’t, Jenkins needs to have a short leash and play the starters more than 35 minutes per game.
Some of the Game One minutes were strategic, as JJJ was in foul trouble and Jenkins rolled with a Tyus/Ja backcourt for a little bit to try and open the offense up. Still, Jenkins doesn’t need to minutes watch and play his best 5 of the night as much as possible.
I expect the Memphis Grizzlies to respond to Game One’s disappointment in a big way. The Minnesota Timberwolves are likely feeling a ton of confidence right now and the Grizzlies are going to want to crush that before Minnesota causes even more trouble. While D’Angelo Russell likely will play better, I expect the shooting from Ant and KAT to regress more to their means with the Grizzlies making more of the open looks they had in Game One.
Memphis responds with a statement win in Game Two before the teams head off to Minnesota for Games Three and Four. I like Memphis to cover, and for the very high over/under to just hit the under.
Memphis 125 , Minnesota 115