The Minnesota Timberwolves came out of the All-Star break with a bang, defeating the mighty Memphis Grizzlies behind a fantastic performance from D’Angelo Russell.
D’Angelo Russell leads the Timberwolves over the Memphis Grizzlies
The Timberwolves have an exceedingly difficult schedule over the next week-plus, including three consecutive sets of back-to-back games. That made getting the first win out of the break all that much more important.
Of course, it had to come against the 41-19 Memphis Grizzlies, currently sitting No. 3 in the Western Conference. But with James Harden, Joel Embiid, and the Philadelphia 76ers waiting for Friday night’s game, Thursday’s results would be amplified.
The Wolves came out somewhat flat, falling behind by 15 points to the Grizzlies in the first quarter. But Karl-Anthony Towns came to life in the second, leading the Wolves back into the game with a flurry of impressive drives to the rim and strong defensive play.
The third quarter saw Towns pick up his fourth personal foul only a couple minutes into the frame, however, and it ended up being all about Malik Beasley. The streaky guard scored 11 consecutive points for the Wolves at one point, helping the Wolves to a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter is winning time, and winning time is when D’Angelo Russell comes to life.
D’Lo scored 23 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth, getting to the rim and the free throw line at an uncharacteristically high rate while splashing a pair of threes for good measure. He almost single-handedly kept the Wolves within a buck of the Grizzlies throughout the quarter while Towns was limited by foul trouble and Anthony Edwards continued to struggle to score.
ultimately, the Wolves were up by three with nine seconds to play when Edwards forced Ja Morant into a tough 3-point attempt. It was an air-ball, and after Jaden McDaniels was fouled on the ensuing possession and drained both free throw attempts, the Wolves were able to seal an impressive win.
Player grades from Timberwolves’ home win over the Grizzlies
Let’s hand out a few player grades from the Timberwolves’ victory.
D’Angelo Russell: A
37 points (13-21 FG, 3-8 3P, 8-9 FT), 9 assists, 2 rebounds, one steal
Russell was solid throughout and phenomenal late, scoring at all three levels and getting to wherever he wanted to be on the court.
The mastery that Russell has over the offense with the ball in his hands continues to be impressive. When he’s shooting with the confidence that he had in this one, Russell is virtually unstoppable. As a general rule, D’Lo doesn’t drive into the paint and try to get to the rim, but he knew he’d be able to do that in this game and was more than happy to take what the defense was giving him.
Malik Beasley: A-
17 points (6-9 FG, 5-7 3P), one rebound
Beasley dropped 17 points in just 18 minutes, with most of it coming during a third-quarter flurry. The Wolves desperately needed him to key that run, and Beasley came through.
He didn’t do anything else with his minutes — just one rebound and no other counting stats to speak of — but his contributions while Towns was on the bench due to foul trouble were invaluable.
Anthony Edwards: B-
5 points (1-11 FG, 0-6 3P, 3-6 FT), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks
The 1-for-11 shooting is hideous, sure. But Edwards did virtually everything else well in this game.
Edwards’ point-of-attack defense was solid, and the exclamation point was shutting down Morant in the Grizzlies’ final meaningful offensive possession. Add in seven assists, four rebounds, and three blocks, and you have yourself a solid non-scoring performance from the budding star.
Karl-Anthony Towns: B+
22 points (9-19 FG, 2-4 3P, 2-4 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks
The foul trouble was really the only issue with Towns’ performance. He was good defensively and did what he could on the glass against the ultra-active Grizzlies. Towns was also efficient on offense and carried the Wolves back from a double-digit deficit in the first half.
Next up for the Timberwolves
The Wolves turn around and host Harden, Embiid, and the new-look Philadelphia 76ers at Target Center on Friday night.