GAME: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Time: 7:00 pm CST
PLACE: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (12-13), Minnesota (13-12)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Minnesota – Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic
Memphis is struggling on a three game losing streak in which they have been outscored by 12 points on average in the 4th quarter. Part of the problem has been the lack of a go to player down the stretch with Zack Randolph still recovering from his partially torn tendon but mostly it has been plain fatigue. In the last game Mike Conley played 41 minutes, Marc Gasol played 43 minutes and Rudy Gay played 45. That extra work has left the Grizzlies without a player ready to stem runs by their opponents.
However the Grizzlies have been sleeping in their own beds for three straight nights and this is a must win game for the team if they want to make the playoffs. Minnesota snuck past the Grizzlies over the last two games and there are now in 11th place in the conference. The good news is that the team is only two games back of the 8th playoff spot but can ill afford another loss to a team ahead of them, especially when they are playing at home. The Grizzlies have won 8 of their last 9 games against Minnesota including the last five in a row so this is a game the team should be confident in.
Minnesota has won three straight games and 5 of their last 7. However the Timberwolves struggled at home against Sacramento and had to travel to Memphis after the game. Minnesota will be without Kevin Love for the game after he stomped Luis Scola in their win at Houston on Saturday night. The Timberwolves have been getting healthy with Brad Miller, Jose Barea, Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley all returning from injuries over the last few weeks.
The Timberwolves are led by two rookies (Rubio and Williams) with Love out but it may be the improved play of Nikola Pekovic that has made the most dramatic difference. Pekovic has averaged 14.1 PPG and 9 RPG over the last seven games and his bulk in the paint has helped cover for some defensive liabilities at other positions. The return of Beasley gives the Timberwolves a prolific shooter off the bench as well.
Prediction: Grizzlies win to end the losing streak