Game Analysis

Going to Memphis: Grizzlies 95, Timberwolves 92

Tyreke Evans is having a renaissance season for the Memphis Grizzlies

The Timberwolves played the second night of a home-away back-to-back in Memphis Monday night after defeating the beleaguered Los Angeles Clippers in Minneapolis Sunday evening thanks to Jimmy Butler’s 4th quarter heroics. On Monday in Memphis, the Wolves lost to a beleaguered Grizzlies team that is in tatters.

What happened (in Memphis)

The Timberwolves played down to the level of a team they should’ve defeated. This ain’t your five-year old niece’s grit & grind Grizz. It’s a worse version, with zero continuity. And it defeated a hapless Wolves team that, save Jimmy Butler, did not “effort” this game to a professional standard.

Yes, the Wolves were on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. But the Grizzlies team that defeated the Wolves is reeling. Before beating the Wolves Monday, the Grizz had lost 11 games in a row. Their best player, point guard Mike Conley, is sidelined due to injuries, as is another key player, Chandler Parsons. The Grizz are currently rocking a rock solid–and currently Kevin-Love-skinny–center in Marc Gasol, the ghost of former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, and not much else. Z-Bo isn’t ambling through that door. Nor is Tony Allen.

Skinny Marc Gasol

Promising coach David Fizdale was recently fired by Memphis amid player and front office drama. Former Gopher star, JB Bickerstaff, who was fired by the Houston Rockets before they took off under Mike D’Antoni, replaced Fizdale as the Memphis coach. I haven’t done any scientific polling [dials up @PDWolves Twitter machine], but suffice it to say that few see Bickerstaff’s star rising at the rate Fizdale’s was last season, before calamity struck Memphis.

Butler or bust?

Jimmy Butler was the saving grace last night against the Clippers. Jimmy took over in the fourth quarter and helped wrest victory from the clutches of defeat. Monday in Memphis, Butler was again the brightest spot for a Wolves team for which there were few others. He had 30/11/5/4. He was the Jimmy we knew we were getting when we traded LaVine, Dunn and the #7 for him and the #16 on draft night.

It still wasn’t enough. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, lauded as offensive heroes and maligned as defensive villains (pejorative use), didn’t come to play: Towns only scored 7 points on 2-6 from the floor; Wiggins had 12 on 6-17. Both floated a lot.

The bench was also bad. Thibs again stuck to an 8-man rotation, with Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, and Jamal Crawford each getting 20-or-fewer minutes. Gorgui was workmanlike, as usual. Tyus, and especially Crawford, were net-negatives on the night. Neither scored or assisted well. Although it’s possible to argue that they’d play better with more minutes, the eye test, tonight, indicated to this writer that Thibs could’ve-should’ve-would’ve played them even less had he had any more depth with which to backfill these spots.

This is more of an indictment of their poor play tonight than overall, but I’m only commenting on tonight, not overall, so bear with me. Neither Crawford nor Jones is exactly a lockdown defender, and when neither offers scoring (Crawford) or passing (Jones) in his bursts of playing time, neither will be effective. Tyus was obviously playing more effective when he was starting in the injured Jeff Teague’s absence, but he is hit and miss in finding a rhythm in limited minutes off the bench. Tonight was a miss. Crawford’s 37-year-old legs might not be as effective on the tail end of back-to-backs as they used to be. Both are things to look at as the season progresses.

I’m not going to dwell on the minutiae of the close loss. We’ve seen it all before. Next up for the Wolves is the Clippers on Wednesday in LA at 10:30 Eastern.


LEAGUEWIDE UPDATE: In the course of watching MIN @ MEM, Twitter exploded and I got momentarily distracted when Lance Stephenson did cool stuff. Love it.

Finally, Memphis is a music town. After a disappointing victory, I’d be remiss not to share a tune for the road.


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4 thoughts on “Going to Memphis: Grizzlies 95, Timberwolves 92

  1. Oof duh

    Yeah we looked flat, like we weren’t even trying. But there are causes to this other than laziness and lack of intensity. The obvious one is fatigue which Thibs thrusts upon the team nightly. The effects are going to be worse on a road back to back, of course, but it’s a specter that is always with us until ways are changed (do not hold breath). Just given the minutes thing Thibs is stuck on, games like this against inferior foes are quite predictable. I know this has been discussed ad nauseam, but it is amazingly abnormal for a coach to consistently play starters as many minutes as he is, as well as only 3 bench players (I don’t care if you think your 4th bench player sucks, and I don’t care if we have one bench injury, a team has to play more than 8 man rotations to compete).

    The second cause is more complex. I don’t feel like going too deep into it, but basically, playing for Thibs saps energy and motivation. There’s the obvious funny part–how guys don’t like getting barked at about nothing all game, all season. But I also mean that Thibs’ ‘systems’ on O and D are not fun to be apart of, are hard to do correctly and don’t have good margin for error, don’t incubate momentum well and are inflexible in the face of adjustments by opponents. This makes our players look lazy at times. But it is confusion, lack of motivating strategy, and simply the effects of being out coached all the time. This is complex–part of it is system (or lack of it) part of it is poor chalkboard coaching such as drawing up plays, timing of timeouts, part is in game adjustments (or lack of them) and part of it is large scale in inflexibility, such as only being able to use and handle ‘my type of players’ whatever that is, refusing to modernize thing such as taking enough threes on offense to keep pace with teams. There is also the lack of progress that suggests an inability to teach players (esp young ones). And not knowing how best to use players (both so they are hardest for teams to respond to and to keep their head in the game consistently).

    For my money, it is hard to get grumpy at Tyus for not distributing in this one, a game where everyone was looking bad. Tyus only had 1 assist in 15 minutes, but lest we get to bent out of shape, Teague had 2 assists in 32 minutes.

    The discussion above about our listlessness has another aspect for me–fan interest. I kind of admired Memphis’ plucky spirit in a tough period for them. It was hard to not cheer for them, and I kept catching myself doing it. This is not something that happened to me much at all in past Wolves seasons. But it’s getting pretty frequent. I don’t like it. I want a plucky team. I want a team that is fun to watch. I want to be intense about supporting our guys. But I’m not all that intense about it (some of our players I’m more supportive than others).

    When not drooling over how great Lindsey Whalen is (she is very impressive) Jim Pete was drooling over ‘alpha, take game over Jimmy’. I’m not real happy with it. The fact that we are ending games like that is an overall bad sign. And it isn’t all that pretty, exciting or effective. As of now it seems like all we’ve got late in the 4th. But I’m not shedding any drool over it.

    League notes: The Greek Freak sure puts up numbers. But his team floats around .500 in a not so hot East. Makes me wonder just how good he is. Is he the Anthony Davis of the East? You know, numbers getting, young, gangly, two way players who somehow don’t seem able to Garnett flawed rosters to respectability… Don’t look now, but Utah, after a period where they looked abysmal, is now 13-11 (to our 14-11). Snyder is working on it. Some interesting aspects to that team… Rubio still is having a bear of a time adjusting to that system. They share the ball a ton, but there is no dominant distributor.

  2. The only date that matters before the holidays: December 12, at home, with Embiid in town to unmask KAT as the young player any executive would choose to start a franchise. If this is not a dominant win for the Wolves, with KAT proving a few points to his growing legion of doubters and detractors, there won’t be any playoffs for us. KAT is demoralized and Thibs has whipped him into apathy, but he’s got to rise above all that and show off his talent. If he doesn’t see Embiid as an opponent to be crushed, we’re going nowhere, again.

  3. Last night was about all that I can stand and I can’t stands no more. The total disregard for team play and hustle was in full display. If Andrew Wiggins came up the floor any slower, he would get into the offense just in time to cast up another brick from just inside the three point line as the shot clock expires. How can a team whose record has been the best we have had in a decade be so upsetting to watch? I won’t hear fatigue, because the older starters were playing with more determination (Butler and Taj), than the young players and for more minutes. What we are seeing is what makes the Clippers losers and Golden State winners. A lack of heart and desire to be the best team.

    KAT gets three shots in the first three quarters? By the time our $19 million dollar PG sees him, the Griz have pushed him so far out of the paint, he has only a long shot available. (how about our franchise center’s last two shots, talk about throwing up garbage.) KAT is definitely a work in progress, but he does have ample moves in the paint, if you get him the ball low enough. Not our PG. He seems to only see his own lanes or passes to people when they don’t have an open shot. Ricky was a terrible shooter, but he got guys open looks for easy shots.

    Jimmy was trying to be Superman and for most of the night he was. However, when he was a decoy and facilitator in the early part of the season, the offense ran smoother. I realize that it is hard for a leader to take a back seat to players that aren’t driven like he is (LeBron is constantly growling about his teams effort.) I think the players have given up on their coach and Jimmy and Taj are being separated from the team as Thibs lackeys.

    I believe it is time to consider trading young Andrew before most NBA teams see him for what he is. A lazy prima donna, who can’t shoot like a star, won’t defend, rebound or pass like one either. Glen said he wanted to look into Andrew’s eyes and see if he was willing to put in the time and energy to be a max contract kind of guy. Glen your blind as a bat. This kid wants to be a star as long as he doesn’t have to work like one. If you could get DeRosan, Middleton and Maker, or even Clarkson and Kuzma for him, I would do it.

    As for KAT. Either you make the offense run through this kid and take your lumps as he learns to be the Point Center for this team, or you trade him for Wing shooters and a Big powerful Center that blocks shots, defends and sets picks. Slowly killing this kid’s will in playing here is not in the Wolves best interest. He wants to be a star, but he needs to be used or he pouts and hangs his head. A good coach learns how to motivate and use his players. Thibs is a taskmaster, but not a teacher.

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