Scouting Report: Wolves at Grizzlies

Wolves (13-12) at Grizzlies (12-13) - 7 PM FedEx Forum
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

The last time the Timberwolves and Grizzlies met, Memphis halted Minnesota’s longest winning streak in nearly 10 months in a 90-86 win over the Wolves at Target Center. Tonight at 7 p.m. in Memphis, Minnesota gets a chance at payback and in the process could put together its longest winning streak in two seasons.

Minnesota looks for its fourth straight win tonight, a feat the team has not accomplished since winning four in a row on Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010. But they’ll need to do it on the road against a scrappy opponent who, like the Wolves, is battling to stay in position for a playoff spot early in this young season.

Last meeting

The Wolves came into their last meeting with Memphis on a two-game winning streak after beating both Dallas and San Antonio in the first two days of 2012. But the Grizzlies came away with the four-point victory thanks in part to shooting guard Tony Allen’s 20 points and forward Rudy Gay’s 19 points. Since then, Memphis has been streaky. The Grizzlies went on a seven-game winning streak that vaulted them up the Western Conference standings, but followed it up by losing seven of their past nine games heading into tonight. Their latest loss was an 89-84 loss to the Spurs on Monday. The Grizzlies are 7-4 at home compared to Minnesota’s 6-4 road mark. The Timberwolves have won six of their last eight games.

Williams stepping up

Wolves Minute Hosted By John Focke

The Wolves are coming off an 86-84 win over Sacramento on Tuesday night, and they did so without star forward Kevin Love. Love, serving a two-game suspension this week, will again not be available tonight, leaving the door open for his fellow teammates to step up in his absence. Against the Kings, rookie Derrick Williams filled the role admirably. Williams started in place of Love and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. But his biggest contribution was a 3-pointer with 56 seconds left that broke a tie score at 82-82, and the Wolves hung on for the two-point victory.

Key matchup: Pekovic vs. Gasol

Memphis center Marc Gasol is putting up All-Star numbers this season, averaging 19.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. But he’ll have his hands full with Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, who has been on a roll for two weeks while his minutes have significantly increased. Pekovic shined Tuesday against the Kings, posting 23 points and adding 10 rebounds and three steals. He went 9-for-12 from the floor and looked nearly impossible to stop near the basket, where he quickly put standout Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in foul trouble with is aggressive play. Against Gasol, he’ll be matched with a player with 14 double-doubles on the season and coming off two 20-point efforts in his past two games. Meanwhile, Pekovic played a season-high 37 minutes against Sacramento and is averaging 29 minutes per game over his past seven outings.

Steal central

If ever there was a night where teams should put extra focus on ball handling, it would be tonight. Wolves rookie Ricky Rubio collected five steals on Tuesday against the Kings, vaulting him to the top of the NBA with 61 on the season. He has 14 games with 3-plus steals this season. Rubio is averaging 2.44 per game, narrowly eclipsing Memphis’ Mike Conley who is second in the league with 2.43 steals per contest. Rubio and Conley are both averaging more than 34 minutes per game on the floor and depending on how Minnesota approaches its defensive guard matchups the two could be facing each other for much of tonight’s tilt. But defense is only part of both players’ skill set. Conley is averaging 12.8 points and 7.0 assists per game, while Rubio finished with a season-high 14 assists against Sacramento. His 12 point-assists double-doubles this year lead the NBA, he’s second in total assists with 227 and third in assists per game at 9.1.

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For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.