Who: Memphis Grizzlies (44-30) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (36-37)
When: Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
THANK GOD THEY BEAT THE NUGGETS! I mean seriously, I try to be objective on here and I’d like to think I avoid blatant homerism most of the time but THANK GOD THEY BEAT THE NUGGETS WE REALLY NEEDED THAT ONE! The Grizzlies move back into a tie for 8th with the Maverick and Suns, and now face another crucial matchup against the underachieving Wolves, who would be a playoff team if not for their chronic issues in close games. The Wolves are purely a spoiler at this point, but it’s quite obvious that they’re better than their record indicate so this figures to be quite a battle.
Mike Conley vs Ricky Rubio
Hey, remember two years ago when we were all really excited about Rubio? remember when he was the Next Big Thing, and all we could talk about was how thrilling his passes were. Well, his passes are still pretty damn thrilling, but he still can’t shoot, and as a result hes found himself in the middle of the pack amongst point guards. This might not permanently keep him from stardom – Jason Kidd was never a strong shooter, but he found ways to be extremely effective. Obviously, Rubio isn’t quite as talented as Kidd – although his most brilliant passes suggest he might not be as for off as one would think – but he clearly has a ton of talent, and it will be fascinating to see him learn how to channel in the coming years As for Conley, he had another strong game against Denver, and as the playoffs get closer and closer, he appears well-prepared to be the workhorse the team desperately needs him to be, which should be a huge relief for all concern.
Courtney Lee vs Kevin Martin
It was great to see Lee finally assert himself again in the Nuggets game, putting up 19 points, and reminding us of how exciting he was in January and early February. This would indicate that Lee has adjusted to Tony Allen’s presence in the lineup, and looks ready to firmly establish himself as the Grizzlies starting 2-guard for the remainder of the year, which is a wonderful development. Meanwhile, after a solid-but-nothing-special year as the 6th man in OKC, Martin has re-established himself as one of the best offensive shooting guards in the NBA. His performance hasn’t gotten much press because of the team’s mediocre record, but he’s liable to light a team up for 30 on any given night.
Tayshaun Prince vs Corey Brewer
Ok, look, I know Tayshaun Prince has actually been better than his raw stats indicate, and I’ve had to eat my words in terms of some of the less flattering things I’ve said about him, but he’s still really boring to write about. I’m glad he’s found a niche in which he can be a useful contributor to this team, but that doesn’t change his status as The Least Interesting Small Forward In The World. But hey, that’s more my problem than his. As for Brewer, it’s been fun to see him re-establish himself as a valuable Wolf after sort-of flaming out in his first run. After seven years, it’s unlikely that he’s ever going to completely harness the power of his athleticism but he has a much better handle than, say, J.R. Smith, so that’s a pretty good thing.
Advantage: Minny on paper, Memphis in reality
Zach Randolph vs Kevin Love
Ok, let’s sit down for second and really appreciate what Z-Bo is doing for this team right now. In both the Grizzlies wins and their losses, Z-Bo is dominating in the post, and playing as well has he has since the 2011 playoffs. As I said about Conley (eh, sorry for repeating myself), it’s really comforting to see that one of the guys who the Grizzlies absolutely need to step up both to reach the playoffs and succeed when they get there appears to be up to the task. Now, obviously I can’t give him the edge over Love in this paragraph because THAT my friends would be blatant homerism, but it is worth mentioning that Z-Bo is more motivated than ever in the midst of a brutal playoff fight, while Love looks increasingly discouraged knowing that his team has missed the playoffs once again. Motivation matters, so while Love is clearly the more skilled player, it would hardly be shocking if Z-Bo ends up having a better game tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Gorgui Dieng
Okay, so we don’t really know who the starting center will be for Minnesota tonight. Pekovic had recovered from injury and re-joined the starting lineup, but then re-injured himself in Monday’s lost to the Clippers. So, let’s keep the surprising Gorgui Dieng in here for now. While a great college player, there was little excitement about Dieng entering the draft, and he was taken by the Jazz towards the end of the draft with little fanfare before heading to the Wolves in a trade. Now, he’s shown himself to be a great rebounder in a decent shooter with a bright future. As for Marc, he had an off night from the field on Monday, but he’s still Marc, so it’s hard to get worried about that.
Off the Bench:
So, I was gonna spend a lot of this space talking about how encouraging the emergence of Gorgui Deng has been the Wolves, but it turns out he’ll probably have to start again, so I had to delete like five sentences that were going to be the centerpiece of this section. Bummer. Well, beyond Dieng, the Wolves bench has struggled – Alexey Shved has his moments, but continues to struggle when it comes to consistency. Like Rubio, he’s just not a good shooter. J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger – both of whom nearly joined the Grizzlies at the deadline – have moments of excellence, but are generally limited and consistent. As for Memphis, their usually deep bench was notably absent against the Nuggets, with Nick Calathes being the only serious contributor. Still, the depth is obviously there, and when looking at each times respective second unit, it’s hard to deny that the Grizzlies’ talent extends a lot further than that of the Wolves.