Minnesota Timberwolves: Same old Wolves lose to Memphis Grizzlies in overtime

Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots against Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots against Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

The Memphis Grizzlies have won their last seven matchups against the Minnesota Timberwolves, increasing the number again as the Wolves stepped in a fourth-quarter bear trap.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Same old Wolves lose to Memphis Grizzlies in overtime

Another game, another lineup change for head coach Chris Finch as Patrick Beverley received the nod in an attempt to slow down one of the league’s most athletic players in Ja Morant.

There were a lot of whistles on both sides in the first few minutes of the game, but the Wolves were able to keep rhythm, turning defense into offense and scoring early in possessions.

Jaden McDaniels came out aggressive, attacking the rim and finally getting to the free throw line. The rest of the Wolves followed his lead, driving and kicking and using great ball movement to find the open shots. After five minutes of play, the Wolves found themselves up by a score of 17-5.

On the ensuing possessions, both teams traded buckets before Beverley faked a pass to D’Angelo Russell before finessing a finger-roll over Steven Adams. Beverley continues to give the team sorely needed confidence and energy, in some ways not all too dissimilar to the bulldog himself Anthony Edwards.

Going into the game, Wolves fans may have been nervous about Towns matching up against a stronger opponent in Adams, as that player-type seems to be Towns’ Kryptonite.  After one quarter, Towns only had two points, but the rest of the team continued to carry the offensive load. As it turned out, Adams wasn’t much of a factor in this one.

Things were going smoothly for the Wolves until Beverley left the court. The run began for the Grizzlies as they beared down the court going on a dominant run to end the first, tying things up at 34. Both teams shot over 50 percent in the quarter, and the Grizzles shot 83 percent from 3-point range.

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The tempo slowed and the defense got back to business to start the second, with a block on Brandon Clarke and a forced turnover on Tyus Jones, the assist-to-turnover rate god. But, the stout defense could not help out the stalled offense, as the Grizzlies bench unit helped them take a nine point lead halfway through the second.

The momentum was handled again by the Wolves defense with Josh Okogie making an immediate impact off the bench. On the offensive end, ball movement continued to look San Antonio-ish, but the shots were not falling as much as the Wolves would like. Memphis took the lead into the half 58-54 behind 28 bench points.

Wolves come out of the break continuing to attack the rim with a strong finish from Edwards and another beautiful floater from Beverly to tie things up. But neither of those shots compare to the poster De’Anthony Melton put Towns on right after to take the lead back for the Grizzlies. The energy Memphis brought to the table seemed to be just above the Wolves’, with the Grizzlies doubling the Wolves in fast break points at 14-7.

But every time Memphis went on a run, the Wolves clawed their way back, eventually taking the lead at 5:10 left in the third after their own nine-point run. The game had 10 lead changes at this point, and there were many more the rest of the quarter before the Wolves pulled away 92-81. In what felt like a quarter of runs, the Wolves had the best one, closing on a 13-0 spurt.

Heading into the game with a four-game losing skid, the Wolves had simply failed to play all four quarters in any of their previous four contests. That was the case in Memphis, too.

The offense grew cold and careless, Memphis chipped away, ultimately going on a 17-6 run before Chris Finch finally called a timeout. All of a sudden, it was a two-point game with one minute left.  And then, Ja Morant happened.

First, a huge dunk, which was followed by an even bigger 3-pointer to put the Grizzlies up three. With no timeouts left, Russell drove the length of the court and was able to get to the line, knocking down a pair of free throws. With exactly 24 seconds left, the Wolves’ defense forced an eight-second violation and earned another chance, still down just one point.

Russell again drove into the lane, but this time he was blocked by Jaren Jackson Jr. on a play that was initially called goaltending. The officials overturned the call upon review, but Jackson tapped the ensuing jump-ball out of bounds with 3.3 seconds left. Unbelievably, the Wolves were then called for a five-second violation on an inbounds play during which only Russell attempted to come to the ball and get open.

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But after fouling Morant and watching him hit two free throws, the Wolves were still only down by three. With no timeouts, Naz Reid heaved the inbounds pass down-court, and the pass was tipped out-of-bounds with 1.1 remaining at the other end of the court.

Then, on what looked like another failed inbounds play, Towns caught another Reid pass nearly 40 feet from the basket and hit an amazing shot off the glass to send the game to overtime.  Although it was great to see the team get things tied again, it was still a colossal collapse.

Tied at 113, the Wolves offense was non-existent once again to start overtime. A three-second call, a shot clock violation, and an air-balled three — clearly, something happened to the Wolves offense after the third quarter. The defense continued to grind, but ultimately, the athleticism of the Grizzles was hard to maintain when they attacked the rim and crashed the offensive glass.

The Grizzles got up four multiple times in the overtime period, and the second run proved to be too much.

Key Takeaways from Minnesota Timberwolves’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Always Seems To Have A Wolves Killer

The Grizzlies always seem to have a player step up against the Wolves.

In the past, it seemed to always be Dillon Brooks. Brooks is out with an injured hand, however, so it certainly seemed as if the Timberwolves had dodged that bullet.

Instead, however, here comes Brandon Clarke, someone who was lost in the Grizzlies’ rotation before tonight. Clarke was 8-for-11 from the field and snagged nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end of the floor.

Timberwolves’ improved ball movement — until the fourth quarter

The Timberwolves offense with two point guards on the floor together in Beverley and Russell proved to work well early in the game. The ball movement in the first three quarters was poetic, Gregg Popovich would be proud.

Unfortunately, the open shot ended in the wrong players hands on occasion, and the Wolves were not able to capitalize as much as they could have. Late in the game, the fantastic ball movement had all but disappeared.

Is the Timberwolves’ head coach Chris Finch or Mike Zimmer?

Finch must not have watched Timberwolves basketball before coming to the Twin Cities. If things start to spiral out of control, you need to stop play and reel everyone back in, because trust us, it will continue to spiral and spiral, it doesn’t stop.

Allowing the Grizzlies to go on a 17-6 run before calling a timeout at the 2:34 mark is inexcusable.  Finch needs to notice the silly mistakes, bad shots, and missed assignments on defense and call a timeout. Do something about it sooner rather than later. In the end, it was a costly mistake.

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This was a terrible loss for the Wolves, with only the positive early-game ball movement to hang our collective hats on as we look ahead to Wolves-Warriors on Wednesday night.