THE FACTS: It wasn't easy at first, but the Memphis Grizzles (49-24) eventually continued their dominance over Minnesota (26-46), defeating the injury-riddled Timberwolves 99-86 on Saturday. Marc Gasol led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Mike Conley added 19 to give the Grizzlies their 11th straight win against Minnesota, including two early blow outs in the last six weeks. Ricky Rubio led the Wolves with a near triple-double, finishing 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The Wolves started strong, getting out to a 30-23 first quarter lead. But playing without injured center Nikola Pekovic (sprained left ankle) eventually caught up to them. The interior size of Memphis forced the Wolves to consistently settle for jump shots or wild drives to the hoop, and the Grizzlies' second-rated defense allowed only 56 more points the rest of the way. With the win, Memphis slipped ½ game ahead of the LA Clippers for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
QUOTABLE I: "They are in the paint. You are not going to make interior plays. You've got to find people on the outside, and then the second part to that is to make the shot. They are a very solid defensive team and they know exactly what they have to do to win. They took the game away from us in the second half."
-- Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman.
TURNING POINT: After the Timberwolves finished an 11-3 run early in the second quarter to take a 38-26 lead, the Grizzlies locked in and went on a 13-2 run, holding the Timberwolves to just two points on 1 for 10 shooting over the next 6 ½ minutes and quickly getting back into the game.
THE STAT: The Grizzlies defense didn't stop there as they continued to shut Minnesota down the rest of the way. The Wolves scored their 30 first quarter points on 64.7 percent shooting, but Memphis defense forced Minnesota into shooting 18-50 over the next three quarters to finish a bleak 43.3 percent for the game.
QUOTABLE II: "I thought our defense kept us in the game. We held them to 36 points in the second half and really clamped down and took control of the game."
-- Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.
HOT: Memphis on the road this season. With the win tonight, Memphis is now 20-16 away from home, setting a franchise record for most road victories in a season. If the Grizzlies have any championship aspirations, they have to continue this trend as no NBA team in the last 25 years has won a championship without winning at least 21 road games during the regular season.
NOT: The Wolves in back-to-backs this season. After defeating Oklahoma City last night, they had a chance to sweep both nights -- something they haven't done since December 14 and 15 when they beat New Orleans and Dallas.
QUOTABLE III: "I don't like to hear those things. I didn't know it was on my back. Now that you told me I guess, yeah, it'd be nice."
-- Adelman responding to whether he wanted to get the "monkey off his back" and win on back-to-back nights for the first time in over three months.
GOOD MOVE: With Pekovic a late scratch, Adelman stayed big against the Grizzlies by inserting Greg Stiemsma into the starting lineup. Stiemsma filled the stat sheet with four points, two steals, a rebound, assist, and block in the opening quarter, helping the Wolves get out to an opening lead.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Just when owners thought they could count on the oft-injured Pekovic for a consistent source of points and rebounds, he turned up as a very late scratch with a sprained left ankle. Even Adelman was unaware of the injury in his pre-game press conference.
ROOKIE WATCH: Timberwolves forward Alexey Shved seems to be getting the "rookie treatment" from NBA officiating crews. Despite playing 25 minutes a game and regularly driving to the basket, Shved is averaging just 2.2 free throws a game. He got leveled on a 3-point attempt by Tony Allen early in the second quarter, but no call was made. After the play, Allen spent some time explaining to an incredulous Timberwolves bench how he got "all ball" when he slapped it away.
NOTABLE: With two steals tonight, Conley has recorded a steal in 64 consecutive games. Only Michael Jordan and Chris Paul have had longer streaks since Conley was born in 1987. Paul's streak is an NBA-record 108 games......Paul currently leads the league in steals at 2.41 a game over Conley's 2.31. Rubio would rank second at 2.33 if he had enough games to qualify......Memphis is now just one win short of a the franchise record of 50 wins. Since he became head coach in 2009, Hollins has improved the team's record every season....With the loss tonight, Adelman remains three wins shy of 1,000 for his career.
UP NEXT: For the Grizzlies, Monday vs. San Antonio, Wednesday @ Portland, Friday @ LA Lakers. For the Wolves, Monday vs. Boston, Wednesday @ Milwaukee, Friday vs. Toronto.