The Minnesota Timberwolves will try and avoid losing a sixth-straight game as they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Only 10 games to play, and nothing to work towards.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, and that means that they only have a couple of things to play for: interim head coach Ryan Saunders is auditioning for a job and Karl-Anthony Towns is playing to get onto the All-NBA team and make a few million dollars more per year.
There are, of course, other evaluations to be made. Is it worth extending Dario Saric‘s contract yet, or should the Wolves wait another year? Should Tyus Jones get the qualifying offer this summer as a restricted free agent, and/or could he possibly be the team’s starting point guard of the future? And what to do with Andrew Wiggins?
All that to say, there’s a game to be played on Saturday night in Memphis, and the Wolves find themselves only three games better than the Grizzlies, who have played miserable basketball since the turn of the calendar in January. While a better draft pick would be nice, it would also be nice if the team could rally around Saunders and Towns and finish strong.
Nobody wants to finish the season on a massive losing streak, after all.
Here’s what to watch for in Saturday game between the Wolves and the Grizzlies.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
Of course…what else would be No. 1 on this list?
While Towns has cooled off ever so slightly of late, his March numbers still boggle the mind, and especially his shooting splits: .545/.500/.849. Yep, that’s field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentage — the man is shooting 50 percent on 3-point attempts over the past three-plus weeks, and he’s attempting 5.1 threes per game over that stretch.
Towns is also becoming adept at passing out of double and triple-teams in the post, and the Wolves simply need to find a player or two to step up around him and knock down open shots.
2. Wiggins and Saric
Wiggins has been struggling mightily as of late but had a decent performance in Charlotte on Thursday night, scoring 20 points on 15 shots and pulling down five rebounds. It’s not enough, of course. Wiggins needs to be more efficient and make his free throws when he gets to the line (he shot 3-of-7 from the charity stripe against the Hornets).
Saric has played better of late as well, putting up a 15-point, 7-rebound performance against the Hornets in 28 minutes after 13-point-, 6-rebound showing against Golden State the last time out, also in 28 minutes.
He’s been doing a great job cutting into the paint and presenting himself as an open target for Towns of late, but he’ll need to improve his consistency from beyond the arc moving forward as well.
3. Keeping Jonas Valanciunas in check
Valanciunas came to Memphis in the Marc Gasol trade and has been scoring at a career-best rate in his 14 appearances since joining the team.
Valanciunas is averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor. Last time out, the Grizzlies lost in overtime to the Orlando Magic despite 23 points and 24 rebounds from Valanciunas.
Towns will have his hands full and will need to be careful that he doesn’t put himself in early foul trouble. The Grizzlies don’t have that many consistent offensive threats outside of Valanciunas, so the Wolves would be best-served to keep the big man in check early if they want to come away with a win.
We’ll be back after the game with player grades. Enjoy this Saturday of March Madness and Wolves basketball!