The Minnesota Timberwolves played their 1st game away from the friendly confines of The Target Center in 6 contests on Sunday, as they were trying to end a 3 game losing streak. The Wolves were in Memphis, for their 1st of 2 games on the road, and looking to snap an 8 game losing streak to the Grizzlies. The Wolves offense (21st) really needed to play perfect, if they were to beat the Grizzlies and the NBA’s top ranked team in fewest points allowed.
Wolves head coach Rick Adelman didn’t travel with the team on Saturday, and due to weather related issues on Sunday, landed in Memphis at roughly 4:40, 20 minutes before the tip of the game. Rick Adelman wasn’t the only one missing on the plane to Memphis on Saturday, Andrei Kirilenko didn’t travel with the team for the next 2 games on the road.
For the Wolves they started with Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Mickael Gelabale, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio. For the Memphis Grizzlies, they started Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen and Mike Conley. Neither team offensively start the game out great. The Grizzlies were able to manufacture some points in transition, while the Wolves were able to get points from the free throw line. Rick Adelman sat on the bench for the first time with 8:09 left to play and the Wolves leading 5-4. With 3:31 left to play in the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 4 point lead, and a 5 rebound advantage over Memphis. Over the rest of the 1st quarter the Wolves were outscored 9-4 and trailed 21-20 at the end of 1 quarter of play.
The 2nd quarter started off with both teams using a majority of their benches. Something to note, the Grizzlies had either Gasol or Randolph on the floor at all times during the 1st half. The game remained tight all the way through the first half, with 7:27 left to play in the 2nd quarter, there had been 6 lead changes and 5 ties. JJ Barea was the one Timberwolf, player that wasn’t on the floor in the 2nd quarter. While he was dressed and active, it was found out during the game that his left foot was still bothering him and he wouldn’t play in the Grizzlies game. After the Wolves did such a great job in the 1st quarter in rebounding the ball, the Grizzlies managed to take back a 21 – 18 advantage with 2:43 left in the half, and a 40-32 lead. The Grizzlies defense had forced the Wolves into 8 turnovers and used them to contribute to the 16 1st half fast break points. Just as has been the case in the past, when the Wolves play Memphis, the Grizzlies force a lot of turnovers, and converted those turnovers into fast break points. The relentless defense of Memphis, clamped down the already offensively limited Wolves midway through the 2nd quarter. After a closely contested game throughout the 1st quarter and a half, the Grizzlies closed out the 1st half on a 15 to 5 run to take a 37-47 lead into halftime.
With the 25th and 30th ranked 3 point shooting teams, this game was just as expected. Both teams working the ball inside. Both teams combined for 3-13 shooting from 3 in the 1st half. The Grizzlies don’t shoot many 3’s, so their low shooting percentage isn’t that crippling. The Wolves on the other hand shot 1-8 for 12% in the 1st half. As has been the case all season, when the ball isn’t moving for the Wolves, the offense struggles. Against the Grizzlies, it was no different in the 1st half. The Wolves had only 7 assist. The result was 11 of 32 shooting for 34%.
Both teams started the 2nd half with the same starting 5, the intensity at which the Grizzlies started the 2nd half, was completely different then what they started the game with. The Grizzlies, actually Prince, started out the 2nd half on fire. He went 5 of 5 to start the 3rd quarter, and was instrumental in the Grizzlies being able to outscore the Wolves 29-19 in the 3rd quarter. Not only were the Grizzlies able to outscore the Wolves in the 3rd quarter, but they outscored the Wolves 55 – 36 over the middle 2 quarters and took a 20 point 76 – 56 lead going into the 4th and final quarter.
The Wolves went to the bench to start the 4th quarter, as did the Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies have made so many moves during this season, the pieces they have acquired seem to be fitting in very well. As the new pieces get more time together, the offensive production problem everyone thought Memphis would have after trading Rudy Gay trade may not be a problem at all. The Grizzlies bench held onto the 20 point lead with 9:28 left in the game. The Wolves were able to go on a 9-0 run to close the gap to 11 with 7:33 remaining in the game. The 11 point deficit would be all the closer the Wolves could get as the Grizzlies were just too much for the Wolves to handle and finished with a 105 – 88 victory.
With no real offensive weapons on the floor for the Wolves, the lack of ball movement continues to put this team in huge holes that are tough to work out of.
A team like the Grizzlies, who have no real offensive weapon after the Gay trade, play with suffocating defense and great ball movement. The Grizzlies forced the Wolves in to 19 turnovers, and as a team the Grizzlies had 30 assists for the game.
Chris Johnson got 11:48 of play, and during that time he was able to go 2-4 for 4 points, grab 4 rebounds, get 1 assist and go a total +5. He was the only Timberwolves player to have a net positive for the game.
The Timberwolves will look to snap their current 4 game losing streak as they play the Cavs in Cleveland on Monday night with a 6 o’clock tip.