Wednesday night’s tilt between the Memphis Grizzlies and your Minnesota Timberwolves was one entertaining game of professional basketball.
In an unlikely turn of events in a game between the slow-paced Grizzlies and the up-and-down, nothing-to-play-for Wolves that could have been expected to be painful to watch, those who attended the game or tuned in on television were pleasantly surprised. The Wolves played one of their better games of late, withstanding a number of Grizzlies’ runs and ultimately pulling away late in the contest.
Early in the game, Memphis looked like they could pull away multiple times, including right before halftime. But a quick burst by Minnesota gave them a 48-41 lead at the break. The bench played some fantastic second quarter minutes, with J.J. Barea dishing out five assists in short order, and Shabazz Muhammad shooting 3 of 3 from the field.
Ronny Turiaf made a somewhat unexpected and sudden return from a 1 1/2 month layoff and made his presence known immediately, doing a great job on Marc Gasol in the paint and displaying his energy and passing on the offensive end of the floor. Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham rounded out the all-bench unit, and they were a big part of the lead that the Wolves held at halftime.
It was the starters’ turn to surge forward in the third quarter, as they clicked on all cylinders and benefited from a suddenly scorching hot Ricky Rubio. The Wolves’ point guard drained a long two-point jumper, stole the in-bounds pass from the Grizzlies, and laid it up for two more points. Shortly thereafter, he drained another jumper and finally a three-pointer from the corner with Mike Conley in his face.
In what has always been a good point guard match-up but also one that Conley generally wins fairly easily, Conley looked foolish on both ends of the court. Rubio drew three quick fouls on Conley on offense, blowing by him easily with a pump fake and a quick first step. After Rubio turned his ankle and retreated to the locker room for a little while, Barea blew by Conley to get into the paint with minimum effort.
After Rubio returned from what the team called a sprained left ankle midway through the fourth quarter, he stripped Conley on a drive to the hoop and sent Kevin Martin on a one-man fast break for a layup. Conley finished with 7 points on 3 of 15 (!) shooting with 8 assists, 3 turnovers, zero rebounds, and just one steal in 33 minutes.
Rubio’s final numbers were 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 turnovers in an identical 33 minutes. Kevin Love dropped his third triple-double of the season and his second in five days, putting up 24 points on 9 of 15 shooting, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Kevin Martin shot 10 of 18 from the field en route to 21 points, and Turiaf shot 5 of 5 from the field in posting 11 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes. Gorgui Dieng played another solid game that included some very good stretches with blocked and altered shots and aggressive rebounding, but also included a number of issues with turnovers, finishing the game with an astonishing five in just 26 minutes.
Twice Dieng was called for a travel when pump-faking and putting the ball on the floor. The first one was more obvious, while the second was pretty questionable. Even coach Rick Adelman could be heard asking the officials why Dieng was the only player they were choosing to call that particular form of traveling against. Dieng was also called for a questionable “illegal” screen, which was a worse call than both traveling violations.
At any rate, this was a great game for Wolves fans. Love, Rubio, and Martin all played exactly how we’ve expected them to play all season long, and Dieng and Turiaf provided some much-needed energy and toughness throughout the game in the absence of Nikola Pekovic.
The Wolves have once again gotten their record back to the .500 mark, this time at 37-37. Next up is the Heat in Miami on Friday night. Look for a game preview and a discussion on Zach Lowe of Grantland’s thoughts on the Wolves and Kevin Love’s pending contract situation between now and tip-off at 6:30 CT on Friday night. Until then, enjoy this one.