Scouting Report: Wolves at Grizzlies
Wolves (24-26) at Grizzlies (26-21) - 7 PM FedEx Forum
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO
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Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman joked before Sunday’s home game against Denver that he didn’t unpack one of his suitcases after he and the team returned home from their seven-game, 13-day road trip. With good reason, as Minnesota is back on the road again tonight.
The Wolves travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies at 7 p.m. in the first of two back-to-back road games this week. The two road tilts will be the eighth and ninth for Minnesota in its past 10 games, and after Sunday’s 117-100 home win against Denver these two became important in keeping the team locked in the playoff push. The Wolves enter tonight’s game three games out of a playoff spot in the log-jammed Western Conference.
Memphis is part of that group. The Grizzlies are currently sitting in sixth place in the West, just 3.5 games ahead of Minnesota. The Wolves are currently in 11th place but have the opportunity to make a dent in that deficit by putting together a string of consecutive wins. A win tonight would be the Timberwolves’ first against Memphis in three chances this season.
In their win over Denver, Wolves forward Kevin Love led in typical fashion with 31 points and 21 rebounds, and guard Luke Ridnour added 25 points.
Memphis also comes off a win Sunday, a 102-96 game over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay led the winning effort with 18 points, while O.J. Mayo added 16 off the bench. Forward Zach Randolph recorded 10 points and 12 rebounds on the night. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Grizzlies, who had previously lost to the Kings on March 20, the Trail Blazers on March 22 and the Clippers on March 24.
Last time out
In their last trip to FedExForum on Feb. 8, Minnesota suffered an 85-80 loss to the Grizzlies. With Kevin Love serving the second half of his two-game suspension, Derrick Williams started in his place, scoring 13 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Wolves guard JJ Barea came off the bench to lead the Wolves in scoring with 17 points. Beasley added 13 points, and center Nikola Pekovic added 10. Love-less, the Wolves were outrebounded 59-47 by the Grizzlies, who also boasted a 21-10 advantage in offensive boards.
The Grizzlies were also missing a key player in shooting guard Tony Allen, who was injured during their last matchup with the Timberwolves. Allen scored a team-high 20 points in the first Grizzlies-Timberwolves game of the season on Jan. 4 at Target Center.
The Timberwolves continue to battle injuries down the stretch. Barea missed Sunday’s game with a right thigh contusion and did not travel with the team to Memphis and Charlotte. Center Nikola Pekovic is also staying home from the trip, suffering from bone spurs in his right ankle. He has missed five of the Wolves’ last six games. Michael Beasley has missed three of the past seven games with a sprained big toe but said Monday that he’d be ready for tonight’s game.
Key matchup: Post play
With Pekovic sitting four of the last five games with bone spurs in his ankle, Love has started at center and continued to put up impressive numbers in both scoring and rebounding. He’s now averaging 26.3 points per game and 13.8 rebounds per game--30.8 points per game in March. In the Wolves’ 149-140 loss to Oklahoma City on March 23, Love scored a franchise-record 51 points.
But Love’s strong play will not go unanswered in Memphis, with Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and forward Rudy Gay putting up strong numbers in recent games. Gasol is averaging 15.5 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, and Gay is averaging 18.8 points per game, having scored 19 points against the Wolves in their previous two contests this season. With Grizzlies center Marreese Speights and forward Zach Randolph also seeing substantial minutes, Memphis has no shortage of size to counter Love’s presence on the floor.
The return of Z-Bo
The Wolves have not yet seen Zach Randolph this season, who suffered a torn MCL in his right knee on New Year’s Day. Randolph missed 2 ½ months with the injury and returned March 16 against the Raptors, scoring 25 points in 25 minutes. He is averaging 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his six games back from the injury. Randolph was a force a year ago as the Grizzlies made their playoff push to the conference semifinals, finishing the regular season with 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per night. His return could be an important part of Memphis’ stretch run this year.
Critical bench play
Adelman has stressed the importance of others stepping up while the Wolves battle injuries, and guard Wayne Ellington and forward Anthony Tolliver have done just that. Ellington is averaging 8.0 points this month and has seen his playing time increase by nearly 13 minutes per game, while Tolliver is adding 7.3 points a night and is making his presence felt through rebounding and defense. Tonight bench play could be a factor, as Grizzlies guard OJ Mayo has shined in a reserve role this season. Mayo is averaging 12.8 points per night—good for fifth on the team—and is adding 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per night.
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