GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Grizzlies | April 2, 2014
Final: That's the ballgame, folks. The Wolves pick up a big 102-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at home and get back to .500 at 37-37. They got 24 points, 16 boards and 10 assists from Kevin Love, 21 from K-Mart, 14 from Ricky and 11 from Ronny Turiaf in his return. Gasol led the Grizzlies with 18 points, Lee had 14 and Davis had 10. More to come on Timberwolves.com so stay tuned. MIN 102, MEM 88
Q4 2:53: Kevin Love just wrapped up his third triple-double of his career (all three coming this year, two of them in the last four games) with that last assist to Kevin Martin. He's got 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Meanwhile, Martin has 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and Rubio has 14 points and seven assists. The Wolves are holding serve here in the fourth, and with 2:53 left they're priming themselves for a big home win against a team that really needs this win for playoff contention. Really nice effort tonight. MIN 98, MEM 80
Q4 8:39: Ricky had gone to the locker room to get a quick check up, and we received word he has a sprained left ankle and his return is questionable. Moments later, he came jogging back from the locker room and got a big round of applause from the fans. He's back on the bench, so that's a good sign. But we will see if he gets back into the game tonight. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies just cut the lead from 16 down to 10 with a little under 9 minutes to play. MIN 82, MEM 72
End Q3: Minnesota takes a 77-61 lead into the fourth. They did a good job of keeping the tempo in their favor over those final five minutes. The good news is Love has 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Rubio has 14 points and K-Mart has 13. The bad news is Rubio got tangled up with Gasol and left the game limping a couple minutes ago. No word yet on his status. The Wolves begin the fourth with Barea, Budinger, Muhammad, DC and Turiaf. MIN 77, MEM 61
Q3 5:24: Rubio just founds K-Mart up court and hit him with a perfect outlet pass in stride. That put the Wolves up 66-52 with 5:24 to play in the third. This upcoming stretch is going to be really important, because as we've seen this year it's an issue for the Wolves to build leads, but it's been tough at times to hold them in the fourth quarter against teams like the Grizzlies. Keeping control heading into the fourth will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Also, Kevin Love now has 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He's nearing yet another triple-double. MIN 66, MEM 52
Q3 8:10: Ricky Rubio opened up the quarter with six straight points for the Wolves, and Minnesota continues to grab a hold of this game as they've got an 11-point lead. Love is up to 17 points, 10 boards and six assists. Rubio is up to 12 points and four boards. MIN 59, MEM 48
Halftime: We're headed to the half with the Wolves up by seven on a Grizzlies team that needs every win they can from here on out. Love has 15 points, eight boards and four assists, while Martin has six points and Gorgui has four points and five assists. Gasol has 12 points for the Grizzlies, while four other Memphis players have four. The Grizzlies, sitting in seventh place thanks only to a tiebreaker with Phoenix (and Dallas just a half game back of both), will no doubt come out with everything they've got in these last 24 minutes. The West has been pacing for 48 wins to get into the playoffs for half a season, and right now both Phoenix and Memphis have 44 wins. They're still on pace for needing 48-49 wins to get in. Both have eight games to play, and you'd imagine one of them will go better than 4-4 down the stretch. Tonight is a big game for them to keep ahead of the pace. MIN 48, MEM 41
Q2 5:01: Two things: One, Shabazz's lefty hook is so smooth right now. He's been automatic with it lately, and it's been a big reason why he's been able to score so quickly when he enters into games. He's successfully executed a couple already tonight. Two, Ronny is doing some work inside. He's being aggressive and hitting the boards, and his offensive rebound and put-back attempt has him headed to the line after this timeout. He shouted out a "Thank You" after hearing the whistle on the delayed call moments ago. MIN 37, MEM 30
Q2 8:03: The Wolves are on a 9-0 run since Shabazz entered the game, and he's got six of the nine points during that stretch. The Wolves are on a bit of a role here with the second unit in consisting of Barea, Budinger, Muhammad, DC and Turiaf. MIN 29, MEM 22
End Q1: The Wolves wrapped up that quarter on a 5-0 run and we're headed to the second tied 20-20. Kevin Love hit his first 3-pointer of the game moments ago, and he's got 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting to go along with five boards. Gorgui has four points and five boards. For the Grizzlies, Randolph, Gasol Conley and Miller each have four points. Speaking of Love and Randolph, in my podcast I had with NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins that came out today, he said in his opinion there's only two forwards today who play old school basketball offensively, and that's K-Love and Z-Bo. MIN 20, MEM 20
Q1 2:54: Gorgui Dieng is holding his own down low against one of the toughest big combos in the league. He's got four points and five boards early on. Meanwhile, Kevin Love has eight points and three boards on 3-of-6 shooting. The Grizzlies have six players on the scoreboard, none with more than four points. Skinny Miller, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley each have four points. MEM 18, MIN 15
Q1 9:04: One note before we dive into game action: The Wolves are wearing their road blue jerseys tonight to help support autism awareness. Today is World Autism Awareness Day. The Wolves kicked off the first quarter taking a 6-2 early lead on 3-of-5 shooting while holding the Grizzlies 1-of-6 from the field. David Joerger calls an early timeout to regroup. MIN 6, MEM 2
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Gorgui Dieng
Grizzlies: PG-Mike Conley, SG-Courtney Lee, SF-Tayshaun Prince, PF-Zach Randolph, C-Marc Gasol
PREGAME 6:25 PM: Two injury updates of note pregame: Wolves center Nikola Pekovic will not be available tonight, but center Ronny Turiaf will be active and dressed for tonight's game. The Pek news is not surprising--after he left Monday's game with a sore right ankle early on it was suspected he would miss time. Turiaf, however, has missed 19 games since Feb. 22 with a bruised knee. He'll be available to back up center Gorgui Dieng, who will get the start in Pek's absence.
Turiaf said he's played 5-on-0 at practice and a bit of 3-on-3 and 4-on-4, working up to near full court play, but he hasn't played 5-on-5 since hurting his knee. He has gone 1-on-1 with former NBA big man Calvin Booth, who is now on staff in the basketball ops department, so he has gotten a little contact in that way. Coach Rick Adelman said Turiaf worked hard on the off day yesterday to ensure he could make his return.
"I just wasn't able to get the 5-on-5 in with obviously the back-to-backs and all the games that we had," Turiaf said. "We gradually stepped it up to pretty much playing full court. I needed that, I needed that contact. I needed to feel OK that I could come in and help. I've got to be able to make the pass and think nothing about my knee. I was able to do that, and taht was pretty much the final hurdle last week. After that, I was just trying to make a safe and sound decision that I was able to go today."
That's big news for the Wolves, because with Pek out for six games in March the team had to roll Dieng out there for anywhere between 37 and 41 minutes. Turiaf, even in a limited role, will be able to give Dieng a bit of a break here and there throughout the game. Against bigs like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, that's going to be necessary. Their physicality is rarely matched around the league.
“These two guys here, they’re a handful," Adelman said. "We’re going to have to deal with both of them. You know, they’re on a 5 game trip and they’ve won two of the first four. It’s a big game for them. We’ve got to be ready to go.”
Turiaf said it was hard to sit on the bench while injured the way it was, but it also hurt knowing the team was without both himself and Pekovic for much of that time. The bright spot, of course, was Gorgui Dieng stepping in and thriving. He won Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for March, and Turiaf was more than happy to see his young teammate be recognized.
"From the first day that I saw him, that he got drafted, I talked to him and I told him that he has a chance to be great," Turiaf said. "We’re not going to let anything that I can see what he can do better slide by him. So he has this desire to be great, and that is something that is a mark of people that are going to be successful. Somebody that is going to be a sponge. They want to learn, they want somebody to tell them when he’s doing great, when he’s doing stuff that he could be doing better. To see that is just, how do you say, the end result of all the work that he’s done from Day 1 and gradually each and every day getting better and better and better. Now you guys are seeing what management saw when they drafted him and all that stuff. He has a bright, bright, bright career ahead. And I’m very happy to be there with him when he first starts and kind of like set him off."
PREGAME 1:30 PM: Welcome back, folks, as the Wolves get set to take on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at Target Center. We’ve got a tipoff at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM, so be sure to tune in, follow along on the blog here or come on down for a mid-week matchup between a Timberwolves squad that is trying to impact how the bottom portion of the Western Conference playoff race ends up.
Minnesota is no longer part of the three-team race trying to snatch up the final two spots in the West. Memphis and Phoenix currently tied in the standings occupy the seventh and eighth spots, respectively after the tiebreak, and the Mavericks are a half game back sitting in ninth. We’ve got about eight or nine games left, and lots can happen when you’ve got three teams so equally matched in the standings.
The Wolves present an issue for these teams, because they’ve still got a high-powered offense and present the ability to go off and score in volumes on any given night. And they’re also a team that won is 1-2 against the Grizzlies this year, posing the opportunity to even their record against Memphis for the 2013-14 campaign.
Piece it together and Minnesota concerns Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, who grew up in Staples, Minn.
“[The Wolves] can score,” Joerger said. “That’s the problem. You know, you let that team get in front of you, and that horse can run so fast. You might not catch up with it, because if they play free and loose offensively, teams like Minnesota, Denver, they are tough to guard. They run hard and they shoot and they have a lot of playmaking.”
Wolves power forward Kevin Love speaks for himself—he’s on pace to become the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 (and third player ever) to record 26.0 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game and 4.0 assists per game for an entire season. Then you’ve got Kevin Martin and his 3-point shooting ability and Ricky Rubio’s potential to rack up assists on any given night.
But we’re seeing in center Nikola Pekovic’s absence the emergence of Gorgui Dieng. He won Western Conference Rookie of the Month yesterday, and if Pek isn’t able to go tonight (he left Monday’s game with a sore right ankle), we might see Dieng get more minutes once again.
We’ve talked a lot about how Dieng, whose minutes were spotty early on in the year, kept himself ready to go and seized the moment when he got his chance. He even impressed the Grizzlies’ personnel during their meeting on March 24, when his 17 rebounded were a game-high in a matchup that featured Love, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
“Real nice, real nice. Good player,” Gasol said. “Brings energy, solid. He’s only going to get better, and because he works hard, understands the game—of course Kevin on the team opens up the floor a lot, so he has those holes, and Ricky’s a willing passer. He’s a very good player.”
The key to Dieng’s success really is that he maintained a willing approach to learn and keep himself in shape when the minutes weren’t coming.
“You gotta keep doing it,” Gasol said. “When you’re a player, you have to work hard because you got to stay in shape. But when you play, you still have to do the same thing, because if you stop doing it the situation changes.”
Joerger said Dieng was very impressive—not only during the game but how he played leading into the matchup.
“What he’s able to do as an athletic guy, just long, he’s really working at it,” Joerger said. “He’s working at his skills. You can see him consciously doing certain things on the court and helping his team get better and better.”
We've got much more to come as we get closer to tonight's gametime, so stay tuned. Here are some pregame notes to look over before tipoff.
· The Wolves lead the series 41-31, and are 22-13 at home. The Grizzlies have won the last six games at Target Center, including a 94-90 win on Jan. 31. The two teams split the games in Memphis this season with the Wolves claiming a 101-93 win on Dec. 15 and the Grizzlies getting a 109-92 victory on March 24.
· Gorgui Dieng was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for March after averaging 8.6 points, on 61.3% (46-for-75) shooting, and 8.3 rebounds in 14 games. In six starts, Dieng averaged 12.7 points, on 59.2% (29-for-49) shooting, and 14.0 rebounds, including five double-doubles.
· The Wolves have tallied 30+ points in the first quarter a league-leading 33 times. Minnesota is 24-9 when scoring 30+ in the first quarter, 13-3 at home.
· On Monday, Kevin Love (466) passed Tom Gugliotta (464, 1996-97) to take sole possession as the team's single-season record holder in free throws made. Love needs to score 168 points to pass Kevin Garnett (1,987) for the most points scored by a Wolves player in a single season.
· Love currently leads the NBA in double-doubles (58), 20/10 games (46), 30/10 games (19) and 20/10/5 games (23). He ranks 4th in the league in scoring (26.0 ppg), 3rd in rebounding (12.6 rpg) and 3rd in free throws made (466). Love is also averaging a career-high 4.3 assists -- the last players to average 26+ points, 12+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.
· Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals (2.44 spg) and 4th in assists (8.5 apg). He has recorded 3+ steals in 33 games this season, the most such games in a season by a Wolves player. Rubio needs 17 more assists to pass Stephon Marbury (1,393) for 3rd on the Wolves' all-time assists list.
· Corey Brewer is averaging 14.7 points on 52.9% shooting over the last six games, after averaging 7.4 ppg and 36.6% shooting in the previous five games. He ranks 12th in the NBA with 1.68 steals per game.
· With a 44-30 record, Memphis is 7th in the Western Conference, having the tie-breaker over Phoenix (44-30) and 1/2 game ahead of Dallas (44-31). The Grizzlies are 2.0 games behind Golden State (46-28)
· Tonight is the last game of a five-game road trip for Memphis (2-2). The Grizzlies are 21-16 on the road this season, 11-9 vs. the West.
· The Grizzlies are 18‐4 this season when scoring 100+ points (58-8 over the last two seasons). Memphis is 4‐18 this season when allowing 100+ points.
· Mike Conley is averaging a career-high 17.3 ppg this season. He is averaging 19.7 points on 52.2% (48-for-92) shooting from the field over the last six games.
· Zach Randolph ranks 5th in the NBA with 43 double‐doubles this season. He is averaging a double‐double for the 8th time in his career. Randolph is averaging 20.6 points, on 53.4% (70-for-131) shooting, and 10.0 rebounds over the last eight games.