GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Grizzlies - March 30, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame, folks. The Wolves fall 99-86 tonight to the Grizzlies at Target Center as Marc Gasol finishes with 21 and Mike Conley finished with 19. Conley supplied the dagger, draining a three with about 1:20 remaining that put the Grizz up 12. He was 3-for-3 on the night from distance. The Wolves got 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from Rubio, as wella s 19 poitns from D-Will and 12 from Stiemsma. Overall stifling defense by Memphis down the stretch. More postgame analysis and highlights coming on Stay tuned. Final: MEM 99, MIN 86

Q4 8:58: Big minutes coming up here for the Wolves. Memphis just opened up the fourth on a 9-2 run, and it's time for Minnesota to respond before things get out of hand. It is a five-point lead at the moment, Memphis' biggest lead of the night. Ricky continues to shine with his shot--he's got 19--but the Wolves need some stops and a run of their own to get a little momentum back here. MEM 74, MIN 69

End Q3: Good response for the Wolves after going scoreless in the first four minutes of the quarter. They're going into the fourth with a two-point lead and are getting pretty solid production from Derrick Williams. He is only 6-of-14 from the floor, but he's gotten to the line 10 times and he is tied for a game-high 19 points with Marc Gasol. Rubio is in position for a potential triple-double with a solid fourth. He's got 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Still a combined six points between the two teams on the fast break tonight. MIN 67, MEM 65

Q3 3:07: Derrick Williams continues to impress. He threw down another aggressive, monster jam and the Wolves have gotten back on the scoreboard after a slow start to the third. They're up four with 3:07 to play in the quarter. Ricky also has 15 points and six rebounds to go along with five assists. Gasol (17) and Randolph (14) are leading the way for the Grizz. MIN 61, MEM 57

Q3 8:15: The first four minutes of the third haven't been fruitful for either team, but the Wolves are still trying to get on the scoreboard. In four minutes, Memphis holds a 4-0 advantage in the quarter. MIN 50, MEM 49

Halftime: Ricky Rubio is doing some incredible things on the offensive end, and it's not with his assists. He has 13 points and his hitting both with pull up jumpers and at the trim. He just took the ball from an inbound in the back court and drove to the hoop for a layup in three seconds as time expired at the half, putting the Wolves up five going into the half. Rubio is tied with Marc Gasol for a game-high 13 points, while D-Will has 11 and Stiemsma has eight. Randolph also has eight for the Grizz. MIN 50, MEM 45

Q2 5:33: Very little transition play right now in this game. Almost everything is in the half court set. Conley can certainly run the break, and Rubio has all of his fast break weapons at his disposal tonight with Pek out and Chris Johnson getting more minutes. Add in Budinger and Williams and we've got some options. Let's see if they get out and run at all tonight. MIN 38, MEM 32

Q2 8:36: J.J. Barea checked in and he's bringing some intensity of his own, led by a rainmaker 3-pointer from 27 feet as the shot clock expired--highly contested I might add. Meanwhile, Shved connected from 3, and he's got five to lead all reserves. The Wolves are 3-of-6 from distance tonight and shooting 60 percent as a team. MIN 37, MEM 26

End Q1: Very nice start for the Wolves, taking a 30-23 lead into the second quarter. Derrick Williams is playing exceptional tonight, shooting 4-of-6 with nine points and playing so aggressive. He's getting to the line (only 1-of-3, but still good to draw that contact). Rubio also has nine points to go with two rebounds. No assists yet. The Grizzlies have four points from Gasol, Randolph and Connley. Minnesota holds a 16-8 points in the paint advantage, a curious number considering no Pek tonight. Also, great active defensive play by Stiemsma so far. MIN 30, MEM 23

Q1 5:21: Pretty aggressive first six minutes for the Timberwolves, led by Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams. Rubio set the pace early with a nice steal on the first Grizzlies' possession and went in for two with the aid of a goal tend call on Tayshaun Prince. He's been running with fire up and down the court in transition--love seeing him set the tone like that. D-Will has four flashy points. The first basket was a sweet crossover on Randolph that took him to the hoop via the baseline, and the second was an alley-oop slam from Luke Ridnour. Very pretty. Check the highlights. Rubio and Williams each have four, and AK has three. Randolph/Gasol each have four early. MEM 15, MIN 13

PG-Mike Conley, SG-Tony Allen, SF-Tayshaun Prince, PF-Zach Randolph, C-Marc Gasol

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Greg Stiemsma

Pregame 6:30 PM: Wolves center Nikola Pekovic will not play tonight after suffering a sprained left ankle last night, the team announced just moments ago. That's a huge blow playing against this Grizzlies lineup, and as we noted below Pek has been playing exceptionally well over the last 3-4 games. Not having him against this Memphis front court could make a huge difference. More updates to come. Would expect Greg Stiemsma to jump into the starting lineup as he's done in Pek's absence throughout the year.

Coach Rick Adelman talked about how the offense has come around over the last week or two during his pregame interview. Pek has been a big part of that, but it's been a consistent effort across the board.

“I still thinks it comes down to can we make shots or not? And we have to be consistent in making shots," Adelman said. "I think we’re getting good opportunities; we’ve started over again the last few games, doing things a little bit differently. That’s always a cause for not having the chemistry you need on the court because you have different guys doing different things. We just have to keep working these last 10, 11 games and see what we can do offensively.”

Pregame 4:30 PM: Welcome to Target Center and tonight’s matchup between the Wolves and Grizzlies. Minnesota is coming off a 101-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, and a win tonight would be their first back-to-back victories since a four-game winning streak from Dec. 7-15. And when you look at how this Wolves team is playing and the health they’ve regained over the past week, this is likely their best chance over the past three months to do just that.

Last night’s victory was a gem, as the Wolves’ recent offensive output overcame OKC’s recent defensive swagger. Minnesota has scored an average of 101.6 points per game over its last 11 contests, and the Thunder came into Friday’s game giving up just 84.0 points over their previous three games. Minnesota turned up its own defense down the stretch, allowing just 16 points in the fourth, while making good on their own offensive opportunities throughout.

“Just wish we would’ve had everybody all year,” guard Luke Ridnour said. “It would have been a different story.”

A pair of reasons the team has catapulted to 100-plus scoring outburst despite their season-long scoring output of 95.4 points per game is strong play at the rim and effective spacing in their half court sets. With Chase Budinger back, Minnesota has another athletic 3-point threat. Even when he’s not hitting, defenses need to respect his capabilities. So that opens up the floor that much more, opening up lanes for the Wolves shifty guards to penetrate. It also allows Nikola Pekovic more room down low where he can operate, and he’s been on a roll in the paint. Pek had 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting on Friday, and he also pulled down 15 rebounds (seven on the offensive end).

He is averaging 19.7 points, on 57.5% (23-for-40) shooting, and 14.0 rebounds over the last three games. He has recorded 25 double-doubles this season (four in the last six games) to rank 20th in the NBA. He also ranks 12th in the league with 214 offensive rebounds.

He’s such a load to work with down low. When he has room to operate, look out. He handled Kendrick Perkins handedly on Friday, forcing him to foul out with just two points and five boards.

“It’s unbelievable how strong Pek is,” Budinger said. “I can’t explain how strong he is, but it hurts out there in practice when you get hit by one of his elbows.”

He’ll have his hands full tonight with the Grizzlies, who are coming off a 103-94 win against Houston in Memphis on Friday night. The Grizz essentially have two Peks with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and those two combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds against the Rockets. They shot 14-of-24 from the floor, and they’re just as physical in the lane. That’s going to be a key matchup tonight—how the Wolves handle both of those players, and if Pek can continue to operate with the efficiency he did against the Thunder. Memphis already has a playoff spot locked up, but they’re looking to move into that home court advantage spot. The Grizz are currently a half game behind the Clippers for the fourth spot in the West.

Here are some pregame notes for tonight’s game:

  • The Wolves lead the all-time series 40-28, and are 22-11 at home. Memphis has the last 10 meetings between the two teams and 13 of the last 14 contests.

  • The Grizzlies won the two previous meetings this season, both at FedExForum: 105-88 on Feb. 10 and 92-77 on March 18.

  • Rick Adelman is three wins shy of reaching 1,000 NBA coaching wins -- a plateau previously reached by only seven coaches.

  • The Wolves have scored 100+ points in four of the last five games (3-2 record), averaging 107.4 ppg over this stretch.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.36 over the last 11 games. He needs three steals tonight to qualify to be among the league leaders in that category. He currently would be ranked 2nd in the NBA with 2.33 steals per game if he qualified.

  • Rubio would rank 9th in the NBA in assists per game if he had enough assists to qualify. At his current pace of 7.3 apg, he will qualify after the Wolves' 76th game of the season (April 6 vs. Detroit).

  • Nikola Pekovic has grabbed an offensive rebound in the last 68 games he's played -- the 2nd longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love, 75).

  • The Wolves have had fewer turnovers than their opponent in 17 of the last 20 games (one tie). Minnesota has a +3.3 turnover-per-game advantage (14.-17.5) during that span.

  • Memphis is 5th in the Western Conference at 48-24 -- the franchise record is 50 wins set in 2003-04. Memphis is 1/2 game behind the Los Angeles Clippers and 1 game behind Denver. The Grizzlies are 4-5 in their last nine games after going 14-1 in their 15 games prior to that.

  • Memphis is 19-6 on the road, including a 9-11 record vs. the West. The Grizzlies have never finished a season with a winning road record.

  • The Grizzlies rank 2nd in the NBA in points allowed at 90.0, and 7th in point differential at +3.7 ppg.

  • Zach Randolph is 3rd in the NBA in total rebounding at 11.5 rpg and 1st offensive rebounds at 4.2 per game. He ranks 3rd in double-doubles with 41.

  • Mike Conley is averaging 17.6 points, 7.4 assists and 2.44 steals in his last 16 games. He ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals at 2.31 spg and has recorded a steal in a franchise-record 63 consecutive games -- the longest active streak in the NBA.

  • Jerryd Bayless is averaging 19.1 points, on49.6% shooting, over the last eight games.

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