Preview: Grizzlies at Timberwolves
With the All-Star Game in the books, there is no more debate about whether Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph or Timberwolves big man Kevin Love was a more deserving candidate to represent the Western Conference over the weekend. Despite the Grizzlies’ winning ways, the nod went to Love, the league’s leading rebounder, in a virtual coin flip. Now that the unofficial “second half” of the season is underway, the Grizzlies focus is not about getting a player to the All-Star game but rather getting the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. To accomplish that goal, the Grizzlies will need to continue their recent success against Love and the T-Wolves, having beaten Minnesota in five of the previous meetings, including wins of 20 and 18 points earlier this season. Although, without Rudy Gay’s (left shoulder subluxation) combined 47 points against the Wolves this season, repeat success is easier said than done.
Take a look at some of the keys to tonight’s game:
It’s nearly impossible to find one single player to replace the contributions of Rudy Gay, but Tony Allen has done yeoman’s work in his attempts at doing just that. Starting in place of Gay, Allen tied for a game high with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting in last night’s loss to Denver, including a season-best 10 free throws (10-of-14 FT), to go with a season-high tying eight rebounds. When charged with a similar task on Feb. 8 at Oklahoma City, Allen turned in a season-high 27 points (9-of-12 FG) while swiping five steals and tallying three blocks, among several of his game-changing defensive plays, to become the first player in Grizzlies history to reach those figures in points, steals and blocks in a single game. Whether replacing Gay or not, Allen has averaged 15.0 points in nine starts this season—nearly eight points better than his season average (7.3). As good as T.A. has been, he isn’t the only one the Grizzlies are counting on to replace Gay’s 19.8 points per contest. Sam Young has stepped it up in a starting role, scoring double figures in 10 of his last 12 games for an average of 12.2 points in that span. Meanwhile, O.J. Mayo registered a 21-point effort off the bench last night and is averaging 22.0 points in the three games that he’s played with Rudy sidelined due to an injury.
Stat of the night
Though it hasn’t always translated to wins, the Timberwolves’ collective rebounding ability has kept them in some ballgames this year. Leading the league with 44.9 boards per game (including 13.6 on the offensive glass), the T-Wolves have been able to produce a league-best 16.5 second chance points, also tops in the league. The Grizzlies aren’t far behind the pace, though, putting in 14.6 points on second opportunities, good for fourth-best in the NBA.
Matchup of the night
The aforementioned Randolph-Love duel will be the one to watch this evening. After missing the first meeting on Oct. 30, Randolph certainly pled his case for a second consecutive All-Star bid in Minnesota on Feb. 2, tallying 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 102-84 win while holding Love, a double-double machine, to 10 points and 10 rebounds. With two of the league’s top three rebounders on the floor, tonight’s game could very well be decided in the paint.
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