Grizzlies 93, Timberwolves 71: Grit and Grinded

Photo: Brandon Dill, AP

Photo: Brandon Dill, AP

The Grizzlies, in a throwback to the supposedly bygone days of Grit and Grind basketball, brutalized the Wolves 93-71 Saturday night, controlling the game from the opening tip. Although the game was neck and neck through the first half, Memphis dictated the flow of the game; the Grizzlies wore the Wolves down on both sides of the ball while keeping the pace slower than that of the advancing glaciers during the Pleistocene (the pace of play for the game was 86.0; for reference, Memphis’s average pace of play coming into the game was a molasses-like 93.1, which was 28th in the league). Memphis took a 24-23 lead with 9:08 remaining in the second quarter and never looked back, outscoring the Wolves 69-48 over the final 39 minutes.

The Grizzlies played well overall. Zach Randolph was particularly great, tabulating 18 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. Randolph had his way with Gorgui Dieng, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Adreian Payne, contributing to their combined 12 fouls while drilling baseline jumper after baseline jumper (and a three for good measure). JaMychal Green was also effective and efficient putting up 19 points and eight rebounds on nine shots.

The Wolves simply could not get any momentum going tonight as a team; they just couldn’t find a rhythm offensively. Individually, Zach LaVine (9/16 from the field, 4/8 from 3) and Towns (6/10 from the field, 3/3 from 3) had solid shooting performances, posting 22 points and 17 points respectively, but the rest of the team struggled mightily. Andrew Wiggins failed to score in the double digits for the first time this season, scoring only seven points while shooting 2/11 from the field and the bench contributed only 14 points total.

Although the Wolves played quite poorly, it should be noted that the Grizzlies are a tough matchup for Minnesota. Their roster has a good mix of wily veterans and physical youngsters that present problems for the Wolves. The Wolves are typically able to use their athleticism and shooting to get opposing teams on their heels and exploit their weaknesses. However, the Grizzlies are able to counter the Wolves’ athleticism with physicality on both sides of the ball and “craftiness” (read: they can get in your head) from all five positions, which, when combined, take an exhausting toll over the course of 48 minutes.

This isn’t the first time the Wolves have struggled against teams of this ilk during the young 2016-17 season. What can the Wolves do to turn the tide in their favor against teams like the Memphis Grizzles?

The recipe for a beating these kinds of teams begins with strong point guard play, something the Wolves did not have against the Grizzlies. Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn struggled mightily, combining for 2 points on 0/9 shooting and a plus/minus of -25. Rubio tallied seven assists and four rebounds, but along with Dunn, struggled to contain Mike Conley and Andrew Harrison, who combined for 26 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, and a plus/minus of +32. The Wolves simply cannot hope to win games against teams such as the Grizzlies when the disparity between the two team’s point guards is that vast.

The next ingredient is strong rebounding and to say that the Wolves got pulverized on the boards against Memphis may be an understatement. Memphis grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and outrebound the Wolves 46-34 overall. Put in terms of percentages, the Grizzlies had a defensive rebounding percentage of 86.8% and an offensive rebounding percentage of 31.0% compared to 69.0% and 13.2% for the Wolves. Again, the Wolves stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming out victorious when they are getting beat that badly on the boards.

The final ingredient (that I will discuss in this article; there are more, obviously) is free throws. Memphis got to the line 38 times tonight and hit on 33 of their attempts (86.8%). The Wolves, who game into the game averaging just under 27 attempts per game, hit on only 14 of their 22 free throws (63.6%). Minnesota’s struggles from the free throw line continue to baffle. There really isn’t an excuse for why they are failing to hit their free throws at a high rate, especially because, as a team, they connected on nearly 80% of their trips to the line last season. That leads one to believe that the free throw ship will be righted at some point this season, but right now the team is in rough waters and there is no indication that the storm will be ending soon.

So, long story short, the third meeting between the Wolves and Grizzles didn’t go so well for the Wolves. Minnesota has a chance to wipe their hands clean of this one against the Boston Celtics at home on Monday. Opening tip is at 7 p.m.

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One Responseso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    This game was awful. It stunk. Memphis played better, and obviously forced their style of play, but to different degrees both teams played ugly. There were a lot of empty seats, in Memphis, by the 4th quarter. That should say something about the quality of basketball.

    Contributing to this ugly was the super quick to whistle refs (particularly against the Wolves). There were several ‘fouls’ called with no contact at all. This also led to one of the most fun young players in the NBA, Towns, spending much of the game on the bench. I bet Memphis fans are like, ‘Man, I like winning, but I hope we don’t go back to grind Grizzlies all season. Kinda don’t want to watch a whole season of this.’ I hope they can win in ways other than this, for the sake of their fans. The last piece of the ugly puzzle was the Wolves just playing awful. Jim Pete kept harping on their energy, but that wasn’t it at all. This was the body language of completely perplexed and then frustrated players, not tired or apathetic ones. I know we’re young, but it is going to be a long season if we let clever teams dictate the style of play to the degree that we look like a D league team. We, and this includes our coaching staff, not just the players, need to have some counter moves ready for a team that pulls a Memphis on us. I mean, they were very beatable tonight. Gasol and Conley didn’t play all that well. But because they made an initial move to control the style and tempo of the game (knowing it would throw is off ours) and we had no counter move we never really had a chance. By the late 3rd quarter it was hard to even pay attention. I think we can do better with this in time, but it is frustrating now.

    Everyone looked bad on the Wolves. I’ll single out the PG’s and Wiggins. Rubio looked majorly frustrated and no matter what type of pass he tired, it didn’t seem to work right. He couldn’t find a groove. He hasn’t really been fully ‘on’ since his injury, but he’ll get there. As bad as he looked, Dunn looked much worse. At times he looked more peppy and less emotionally shattered by the filth of the game, but he was shockingly ineffective. He missed a point blank shot Rubio would have made. He shot 0-4 had one rebound, one assist and six fouls. Even in this horrible mess Rubio managed 7 assists…

    This was a pump your breaks game for Wiggins. He’s good. I’ll be the first to say that he improved greatly with all his hard off season work. But he’s not young Kobe, dominate every night good. He’s not frown like you ate a bad peach and put your team on your back good. And that’s OK. He’s really good and still getting better. We sort of have a good problem, with all our exciting young guys. The media gets a man crush on one of the Wolves and it gets pretty intense and they sort of forget that we have 3 really young stars starting, with Rubio guiding. Coming into the season it was TOWNS FOR MVP! Then he struggled a little and Wiggins was better than expected with a really impressive scoring run and it’s all WIGGINS IS THERE. LIKE KOBE THERE. The Wiggins domination even got here (a write-up about maybe not needing a very good true point if Wiggins is going to win every game alone). I’m glad people are excited, but like almost any young player, Wiggins (and Towns and Zach) is going to struggle to be consistent, figure things out, and bring it every night.

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