Shootaround Access: Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Last night the Memphis Grizzlies caught the Timberwolves' attention. Even without injured power forward Zach Randolph, who sat out with a knee injury, the Grizzlies scored 72 points in the paint while routing the Sacramento Kings 113-96.

With or without Randolph, who helped guide Memphis to the playoffs last year averaging 20.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, the Wolves are preparing for a showdown in the lane tonight.

“Last night they scored 72 points in the paint, an astronomical number,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We just have to keep that number really low. They want to really attack and pound people on the boards, so we’re going to have to be really physical and take care of the ball and rebound the ball.”

Easier said than done, but Minnesota does have an advantage in forward Kevin Love. Love’s 15.2 rebounds per contest are second only to Dwight Howard in the NBA, and in five games this season the Timberwolves have out-rebounded four of their five opponents.

No question, closing on attacking guards in the lane, pulling down rebounds and continuing a defense-first mentality will be the focus tonight.

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported today that Randolph has a slight MCL tear in his right knee he suffered against Chicago on Sunday and could miss up to eight weeks. But with Minnesota game-planning without knowing his status, the Wolves focused on how to approach Memphis both with and without Randolph on the court.

Based on Tuesday night, the Grizzlies can still be a presence down low without him.

“We’re going to have to bring it every night if we want to win,” Love said. “I think everybody is gearing up and ready to go. And I’ve been saying it all year: Living in the present, living day by day, because that’s how we’re going to win ball games.”

Johnson heating up

Shooting guard Wes Johnson has had his ups and downs shooting this season, but on Tuesday against the Spurs he found his stride. Johnson hit all six shots he took, including two 3-pointers, and finished with 14 points on the night.

“I just really wanted to see my shot go in,” Johnson said. “That was the main thing. I knew it would fall, I get those shots every game. It was really just a matter of time before it would fall.”

For the season, Johnson is averaging seven points per game and is shooting 43.8 percent from the floor. He has started all five games for the Wolves.

Wolves loving Target Center’s atmosphere

One thing that came up consistently at shootaround was the new feel inside Target Center this season. The energy provided by the full arena is something the Wolves are noticing, and it’s helping them early on during this five-game home stretch.

“It’s awesome,” Tolliver said. “It definitely helps us play better. The fans are like our sixth man. It’s a huge, huge help as a player out there to hear 19-20,000 people chanting for you and on your side. It helps you play better.”

Target Center was sold out for both the Oklahoma City and Miami games, and against Dallas and San Antonio the crowds registered at15,115 and 14,514, respectively.

Guard Luke Ridnour said it’s a whole different mentality in the locker room this year compared to last.

“It’s fun to come in and get the atmosphere in the locker room and the fans,” he said. “It’s something that was definitely missing last year. … You just sense that atmosphere has been totally different this year.”

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