Game three is tonight!
The Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves are all square at 1-1 in their first round best of seven series of the NBA Playoffs. Both teams have shared sensational games from a performance perspective. Both games ended with a double-digit spread.
It feels like both teams have figured out one another following two games of major adjustments. To take a peek inside the opponent’s corner, we sat down with Brendan Hedtke of Canis Hoopus for Five Questions ahead of Game Three between Memphis and Minnesota.
1.) Both teams have had their games thus far. You mentioned on Twitter following the Timberwolves loss on Tuesday night, that their bad offensive night shouldn’t happen again. What did the Grizzlies defense do well to contain the Wolves, and what does the Wolves offense need to do in game three to be better?
I think Taylor Jenkins made some good adjustments after Game 1 that slowed down the Wolves, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Obviously not playing Steven Adams after his first stint was a good choice, because Towns typically has his way against Adams.
Even though I think Memphis did play good defense, I think Minnesota made it easy for them to do that. All three of the Wolves top three best players played poorly. Towns, stupidly, got himself in early foul trouble and forced Finch to take him out for more minutes than usual. Anthony Edwards wasn’t being as aggressive as he had in Game 1 and settled for tougher looks. D’Angelo Russell continued to miss shots and began to take tough looks in hopes of finding some sort of a rhythm. Overall, the offense was too stagnant. There was not much ball movement nor movement without the ball from the players. Those are two things that the Wolves explosive offense is predicated on. I think the Wolves need to get the ball moving quicker and with a purpose in Game 3, along with staying out of foul trouble.
2.) The Grizzlies, in a way, are looking in a mirror at themselves last playoffs. One win against a strong and deep Utah Jazz last NBA Playoffs. Obviously, not saying that the Wolves are done in this series, but Chris Finch mentioned the youth on Minnesota’s roster played a role in their game two loss. Does the game two loss expose the youth on Minnesota’s roster?
I don’t really think the youth had anything to do with it. At least, it shouldn’t. Towns and Russell are both young players, but they also are both in their 7th seasons in the league. They each had 5 games of playoff experience entering this postseason, which isn’t a lot. But, they have both played hundreds of NBA games. Youth cannot be an excuse. Inexperience is a better argument, but not a good one due to the lack of experience Memphis has as well. The youngest player on the team, Anthony Edwards, has been the best player so far. He struggled in Game 2, but still had a better game than both Towns and Russell.
I do see the similarities though, but I would push back some - like you mentioned - to the fact that this thing isn’t over. Not saying Minnesota wins the series, but I would be very surprised if they lose three more in a row to end their season.
3.) Looking ahead to game three tonight, both Memphis and Minnesota have the chance to take off offensively at any given time. Chris Finch mentioned that Minnesota has to limit the amount of times Ja Morant gets into the paint. How do you scheme Morant from an opponent perspective? Especially when Morant is such a great creator for his teammates after getting to the second layer of defense.
I think the Wolves need to pack the paint. Play boxes and elbows against Ja and make him kick out to his teammates. We know that he scores the most points in the paint in the entire league and that he is excellent at finding his teammates out of a drive, but I think you just have to live with the “others” trying to beat you. The Grizzlies shot about average from deep on the season, but their volume was relatively low. I can’t say I trust anyone to be consistent from deep on the Grizzlies team outside of Bane and Melton. Jones can hit shots, Jackson and Brooks can too, but I think you live with that more than you do with Ja drives and dump passes to Jackson and Tillman.
I also think the Wolves need to ensure that they aren’t picking up Ja too far out. Dare him to shoot more, because we know that is not his best skill. Overall, I think the Wolves need to try to force Memphis to do less of what they are good at, as cliche as that sounds.
4.) Karl Anthony-Towns had an off night in game two against Memphis. Really, the Wolves big three of Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and Anthony Edwards all had rough night offensively. Focusing on Towns, as the Grizzlies send the double teams his way on the post, what are you looking for Towns to do in those situations? It appeared that he was more efficient at creating for his teammates’ weak side in game one. Overall, how does Towns handle the double teams from Memphis?
I think a big part of Towns struggling was his foul trouble. He couldn’t be as aggressive as he wanted to be, passing or splitting double teams, when he knew another foul would send him to the bench. But also, he just needs to act quicker, with purpose. He can’t get his back turned to the basket and expect good things to come when the double team is waiting for him. Personally, I think he needs to spread himself further out and let the threes fly. He’s a phenomenal shooter and should play like such. That will force Memphis to send someone out to him, opening the lane for Edwards and others.
5.) Finally, you mentioned before game two that the pressure was on Memphis to come out and get a victory before hitting the road. Now, we are looking at a tied series. Minnesota returns home, and you could argue that it couldn’t be at a better time. We know that Steven Adams won’t be in the rotation as much as normal for Memphis. This feels like a game where both teams have figured out one another. What are your expectations heading into game three? Who is the pressure on? And finally, who takes game three in Minnesota?
I think the pressure is on both teams. For Minnesota, they just got blown out after a good win on the road. Coming home 1-1 seems like a victory, but it doesn’t taste quite as good after being dismantled. So correcting course is going to be huge if they want to win this series.
As for Memphis, the pressure to not go down 2-1 with another road game on the docket is huge. Minnesota, and their fans, live off of confidence. If the Wolves are able to win Game 3 and play another game at home on Saturday, they have a good shot to head back to Memphis up 3-1.
I’m not sure who’s feeling that pressure more, to be honest, so I can’t really give a great answer for that. If I had to decide who wins this game, I think I’m going with Minnesota. Fans have been waiting to cheer for their team since picking up the Game 1 win and we know how much Anthony Edwards feeds off of the energy in Target Center (e.g. the Play-In game). I think he is due for a big night, Towns will bounce back, and D’Angelo Russell will finally put out a good showing in this series.
Thank you, Brendan, for catching up with us about this first-round matchup. Follow him (@B_HedtkeNBA) and Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) for the best Minnesota Timberwolves matchup.