Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Grizzlies

Wolves (25-37) vs. Grizzlies (35-25) - 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: No Local/NBA League Pass
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 Minnesota Timberwolves have played on consecutive nights 19 times so far this year, and tonight will be the 20th and final time they compete on back-to-back evenings during the shortened 2011-12 season. The Wolves will take on the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 p.m. at Target Center.

It will be the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs, and Minnesota hopes to salvage a win this season against Memphis. But it won’t come easy. The Grizzlies have seemingly had the Wolves’ number this season and are coming in while fine-tuning their game for the postseason. Memphis currently sits in the fifth spot in the West and, if the standings stay put, would travel to face the Clippers in the first round.

The Grizzlies are 10-4 in their last 14 games but are coming off an 88-75 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night. Memphis struggled from the floor and hit on just 27 percent of its 3-point attempts in the game. Rudy Gay had 24 points to lead the team, but Marc Gasol and O.J. Mayo were the only other Grizzlies to reach double figures. Each had 11 points.

The Timberwolves are on a 10-game losing streak, most recently falling to Indiana 111-88 on Monday. The Wolves fell behind by 34 points at halftime—Minnesota scored only 30 points at the half—and despite rallying to outscore the Pacers the rest of the way their deficit was too great to overcome.

Last time out

The Wolves and Grizzlies have faced each other three times this year with Memphis edging Minnesota all three times. The Grizzlies stole a 90-86 win in their first meeting at Target Center on Jan. 4, then won 85-80 on Feb. 8 and 93-86 on March 27 in Memphis. In that last meeting, the Grizzlies did not make a single 3-pointer (0-for-11) but got offensive production from each of their five starters. All five scored in double-figures, led by Gay’s 21 points. Center Marreese Speights, filling in for the injured Marc Gasol, scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and forward Dante Cunningham finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds in the win.

The Timberwolves were paced by Kevin Love’s 28 points and 11 rebounds in the contest, while guard Wayne Ellington had 15 points off the bench and forward Derrick Williams had 14 points. The difference came in the transition game, as Minnesota was outscored 22-9 in fast-break points.

Randolph moved to starting lineup

Coach Rick Adelman moved forward Anthony Randolph into the starting lineup on Monday at Indiana, replacing Williams as the starting power forward against the Pacers. The move was a product of Randolph’s strong play in the previous three games—he scored 28 points and had five blocks against Denver on April 11, then followed it up with 16 points against the Clippers on April 12 and 22 points and 11 rebounds against Oklahoma City on Saturday. Randolph scored six points on 1-of-7 shooting against the Pacers, while Williams finished with 13.

Wolves Minute with John Focke

Ball control necessary against Memphis

One area the Grizzlies have taken advantage of in their three games against the Timberwolves is the turnover category. The Grizzlies have forced a combined 45 turnovers in the three games they’ve played against the Wolves this year and have compiled 32 steals in that span. Their aggressive nature on defense is led by guard Mike Conley, who is second in the NBA with 2.25 steals per game. The Wolves will need to protect the basketball in this final meeting with Memphis if they want to pick up the victory.

Barea continues to lead offense

Wolves guard JJ Barea continues to log significant minutes as Minnesota’s primary ball handler with Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour injured, and he’s played the role well since returning from a thigh injury seven games ago. In that span, he’s scored in double figures in all seven games and has had point-assists double-doubles three times: 12 points and 15 assists against the Nuggets, 10 points and 11 assists against the Clippers and 24 points and 10 assists against the Thunder. He is coming off a 14-point, 9-assist effort against the Pacers on Monday.

Getting Z-Bo going

Memphis forward Zach Randolph was a major reason why the Grizzlies had a successful regular season and playoff run a year ago, but Randolph missed half the season with a knee injury this year and is still trying to get back into the flow on the court. He’s coming off a two-point effort on Sunday against the Hornets—he only took two shots in the game—but also hauled in 11 rebounds. This month he’s averaging 9.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Injury report

The Wolves have been without forward Kevin Love for the past three games with a mild concussion and neck strain suffered against Denver on April 11. Center Darko Milicic has missed the past nine games with a strained right hamstring and guard Luke Ridnour has missed the past seven games with a sprained right ankle suffered April 2 against Sacramento. The Grizzlies list center Marc Gasol on their injury report as day to day with a bone bruise on his left knee. He injured the knee in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against New Orleans.

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