Barea Lead The Way With 28, But The Grizzlies Beat The Wolves 91-84

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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There was a visible difference in energy level on the Timberwolves bench during Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies at Target Center compared to the team’s performance the night before in Indiana.

On Monday, the Wolves mustered just 30 first-half points in a 23-point loss to the Pacers. But back at home against a team that will likely be a difficult out in the Western Conference playoffs, Minnesota buckled down and took Memphis to the brink. The problem in Tuesday’s 91-84 loss to the Grizzlies was not effort—it was simply a defensive team shutting Minnesota down in the final minutes.

“We stayed in it with our defense,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “They’re definitely long and athletic, but I think we did a good job of matching their energy and their defensive intensity tonight.”

It was the Grizzlies’ fourth win over the Wolves this season, a stretch built on defense and turnovers. Memphis has held Minnesota to an average of 84.0 points during their four games this season and have compiled 63 turnovers during those matchups—including 18 on Tuesday, leading to 24 Grizzlies points.

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Minnesota (25-38) battled back from a 10-point deficit to take the lead as late as the 5:40 mark of the fourth quarter, when Tolliver sank two free throws to give the Wolves an 81-80 advantage. It was during a cold streak for the Grizzlies, who began the fourth shooting 1-for-15 in the quarter during the first eight minutes.

That allowed Minnesota to battle back from eight down to start the fourth.

“The biggest thing we did is they missed shots and we got the ball,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We didn’t give them second chance opportunities. They’re a very good offensive rebounding team. They’re very long, they’re very strong around the basket. We did a good job; we just couldn’t make the play when we needed to make it.”

After the Wolves took their 81-80 lead, Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay connected from six feet to make it 82-81 with 3:37 left. Wolves guard JJ Barea, who led the Wolves with 28 points in the game, connected on 1-of-2 free throws on their next possession to tie it at 82-82.

That’s when the Grizzlies (36-25) put together a 9-2 run to end the contest, icing the game as Gay scored seven of Memphis’ final nine points. He connected on a 3-pointer with 1:55 left that put the Grizzlies up five.

“He’s very tough,” Adelman said. “He’s long. He can go inside, he can go outside. He puts a lot of pressure on you.”

Gay had 28 points in the game on 12-of-15 shooting, matching Barea as the game’s top scorers.

Barea set the tone for Minnesota from the beginning. He connected on 10-of-20 shots, including five 3-pointers on the night. Using his aggressive style to penetrate the lane, Barea opened up his perimeter shooting and looked comfortable all night from the field.

He also added eight assists and five rebounds in the game. He had 19 of those points in the first half—he shot 7-of-9 before halftime while the rest of the team was shooting 9-for-28.

“He was huge, especially in the first half,” Ellington said. “He kept us in the ballgame.”

But in the final 3:22 after Barea’s free throw tied the game, Memphis pulled away. The loss handed Minnesota its 11th straight loss heading into its road matchup with Detroit on Thursday.

Center Nikola Pekovic finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Ellington finished with eight points, Tolliver and forward Michael Beasley finished with seven points and guard Martell Webster had six points.

For Memphis, guard Mike Conley and forward Zach Randolph each had 16 points, forward Marreese Speights had 12 points and Hamed Haddadi had eight.

Tolliver said this team, battling injuries in the last month, still has fight in them and will continue to battle teams to the end. They showed that again on Tuesday night at Target Center.

“We had to come out and give a good effort, especially in front of the home crowd,” he said. “They’ve been here the whole year and done a great job. We’ve got a couple more games to finish out here at home. But we definitely want to win a couple games down the stretch here and make sure we don’t go out on a losing streak.”

Tolliver said the key is staying focused.

“We’re playing not only for pride but to get some momentum for next year,” Tolliver said. “If we come out and lose these next three in a row, that would be 14-15 to end the year. That’s never a good thing. Our goal is to win two of these games or maybe all three. That would be great to finish off the year on a positive note instead of a negative note.”

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