Before a huge sports weekend in the U.S. the NBA will have a full spate of games tonight, so teams like Memphis and Minnesota will not get much rest, as these two familiar opponents face off in Minnesota tonight.
This will be the fourth meeting this season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves will play host to the Memphis Grizzlies as both teams have been traveling for the second game of a back-to-backs. Both teams will be desperste to win after going losing their games played on Friday.
For the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points and 11 rebounds in a 116-108 loss at Detroit. And Andrew Wiggins did the same for his team, scoring 21 points, with Zach LaVine pitching in 20 points for Minnesota who is 19-31 this season.
“The turnovers weren’t high, but those to me were very costly,” said Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau of the team’s 13 turnovers, which included two pivotal ones while the Pistons’ went on a 10-0 run in the last quarter. “That’s what we’re talking about, understanding the intensity and the decision-making that’s necessary to not turn it over.”
Memphis has a better record of 31-22, and was on a three-game winning streak before they lost on Friday. The had a lead, but it was wasted as the opponents star player, Russell Westbrook got his 25th triple-double of the season for Oklahoma City who managed to put the Timberwolves down. Westbrook got 38 points, 12 assists and 13 rebounds for the Thunder in the win, and got his final 15 points of the game which put Oklahoma City ahead for the victory.
Marc Gasol was able to put up a 30-point-plus game, which was his sixth of the season for the Grizzlies with 31 points and eight assists. Mike Conley added in 18 points and Chandler Parsons was able to chip in with 12 points which he amassed in 25 minutes. His points were only two away from his season-high. He’s often injured so those 25 minutes were his season-best.
“It’s disappointing,” Conley said to local press after the game. “This was a big game for us, not just because it was OKC but the schedule, the standings, stuff like that. These games matter because at the end of the year, you never know where you’re going to be. We know OKC is going to be right there with us. These games definitely matter and this was a big one for us.
“But, let it go. It’s been a long road trip. We’ve improved each night, even tonight. We showed some signs of great things. So, tomorrow, we have to hopefully learn from tonight and come back ready.”
Minnesota has not played well against Memphis this year, they haven’t matched up since November. Head to head, the Grizzlies won two of the games played early on in the year, including the last one plated at home, winning 93-71. The Timberwolves won one when Gasol, Conley and Parsons were out of the lineup. Gasol and Conley did major damage averaging 31 points per game in the other two games.
Parsons hasn’t announced the lineup for the back-to-back but the Grizzlies are healthy. Memphis has a strong defense and has played well under their first-year coach David Fizdale. The Grizzlies also have a great starting unit with Conley and Gasol and their bench is agile with Zach Randolph and Vince Carter providing a loy of backup. Randolph is putting up more than 16 points, 10 rebounds and 28 minutes per game over the last 14 games as a reserve player.
“We had a real need in that second unit,” Fizdale said. “We wanted Mike Conley to be more aggressive scoring in that first unit; decond unit really need some punch. He has really embraced it and truly re-invented himself.”
Minnesota are getting their boost from the bench from Shabazz Muhammad, who has been scoring in double figures seven times in the past nine games. He got 15 points on Friday, and went 3 of 4 from 3-point distance.
Coach Thibodeau has made his team to improve quite a bit defensively. But despite starting strong Minnesota gave up 125 points and 116 points in their two road losses this week. Thibodeau wants his main players of Towns, Wiggins and LaVine to become better defenders and focus on possession.
“When you look at the teams that win in this league, they’re strong on both sides of the ball,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what we’re striving toward. We know we have a lot of work to do and the tone has to be set by those three guys.”
Thibodeau told media after the game that LaVine might not play tonight since he has a bruised knee and he’ll be re-evaluated pre-game. The Timberwolves didn’t have rookie point guard Kris Dunn due to a hand injury, nor forward Adreian Payne due to sickness on Friday.
These two squads are pretty opposites in many ways, the Grizzlies are an older veteran team who want to make a sustained run into the playoffs, where as the Timberwolves are a young athletic team who are rebuilding and are lacking that veteran touch.
On the second night of a back-to-back the Grizzlies probebly have more energy and enthusiams to play at home after a tough road trip. The best will be for them not to look too far ahead to their Monday night game against the San Antonio Spurs, and just to focus on beating the Timberwolves tonight. Gasol will need to keep Towns under check, and the Grizzlies have to protect the boards if they want to win. If they can manage this after a tough loss, then Memphis will be able to close off their road trip on a positive high.