Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves
When: Saturday, March 30th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Records: Memphis (48-24), Minnesota (26-45)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis learned one thing if nothing else in its recent walloping at the hands of John Wall and the Washington Wizards, and that is that there is no such thing as an easy out in the NBA. Well, they head up north to test this little bit of “wisdom” against the Timberwolves tonight. In another bit of unfriendly scheduling as everyone around the league is reeling from the rigors of the 82 game grind down the stretch, the Grizzlies hopped directly on a plane after last night’s win against the Rockets to make their way to Minnesota. Back at the Grindhouse, the Grizzlies effectively returned to their roots in the paint, with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 42 points against the vertically challenged lineup combinations of Houston and didn’t trail at any point throughout the game. They’re going to need to carry that magic through to this one, to begin to get their act together on the road.
Minnesota is about to hit game three of a four game homestand, but didn’t quite have a softball assignment last night either. The Direwolves… err… the Timberwolves, sorry, winter is coming… play host to our Grizzlies just some 20 hours after battling the Oklahoma City Thunder. The T-wolves have struggled with depth all season due to a myriad of injuries and short luck, after entering the year hyped as a dark horse playoff team.”Throw a dart at” anyone on Minnesota’s payroll and you’ll find a hint of bad luck somewhere over the course of this season. Now they’re at the crossroads of being “not quite good enough to compete,” but “not quite bad enough to have faith in the lottery.” Maybe they just need a whole lotta Love… On the bright side, they did happen to win against OKC last night.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Ricky Rubio:
The man they call Blond Ricky has had an interesting season to date. After spending the first six weeks or so in a suit, he found his way back onto the court and took a very long time to get himself into form. His PER being at a league average 15 is far worse than his reputation suggests, and is restricted to go much higher by his abysmal 37% field goal percentage. Which is actually an improvement over last year’s 35.7% mark. His shooting is an interesting story as he improved from 23.8% to 29.0% to 37.9% to 41.1% with each respective month. Conley has answered the call as the leader of the Grizzlies and has ramped up his scoring to a team-high 17.7 points per game in the month of March. It’s strange to say this, but between Conley and Bayless, the guards are carrying this team right now.
Tony Allen vs Luke Ridnour:
Ridnour has been pretty valuable for the Wolves, and is a pretty decent scorer when playing off the ball, but all in all is a pretty average player. Allen has been rebounding like a man possessed, crashing the boards harder than usual lately, and will play his usual bloodhound defense.
Tayshaun Prince vs Andrei Kirilenko:
Kirilenko is really one of the most intersting players in the NBA. His statlines rarely ever show anything extraordinary, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anything that happens on the court that he doesn’t have his hand in at one point or another. Tayshaun’s greatest asset is his ability do take an offensive player off his game by using his smarts, excellent positioning, and length. Being offensively dominant is not AK-47’s game and he’s a darn effective defender, so I don’t foresee Tay making all that much of a difference tonight.
Zach Randolph vs Derrick Williams:
In an elusive pleasant surprise for the Timberwolves this season, Williams has suddenly looked like a shade of the player they expected they were getting with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. In a vapid rookie season and an even less inspiring start to this one, Williams looked like yet another whiff from the 2 spot, but seems to be getting this NBA thing figured out as the calendar flipped to 2013. Randolph was looking very unhappy very visably of late, and no amount of speculation is going to clue us in and uncover what truly was going on, but last night was certainly a step in the right direction.
Marc Gasol vs Nikola Pekovic:
I’m going to preface this section by saying I’m giving the edge to Memphis, but only by a real slim margin tonight. Pek is a massive 6’11. The guy is built like a monster, and is an immovable block on the block. After suffering an abdominal injury, it took him a bit of time to find his roll, but after going off for 19 points with 16 boards against Dwight Howard and the Lakers, he seems to be himself. Maybe he can exchange some pointers with Marc for getting over the abdominal strain. It is also worth noting that Pekovic’s PER is at 19.73, higher than that of anybody on the Grizzlies’ roster. With 3 shades of bias, I view Marc as the best big man in the game, but he has a tall, tall task ahead of him tonight.
The Timberwolves’ bench is pretty good when their team is healthy. They have a lot of different weapons, none of which are overwhelmingly good on their own, but can all be effective in the proper doses. Since the last time these teams met, they got offseason acquisition Chase Budinger back after an elongated stint on the disabled list with a knee issue, who has fit back quite nicely into the mix, and provides them sorely needed versatility at the wing positions. Beyond Chase, their bench possess two highly potent guards in J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved, as well as workhorse forward, Dante Cunningham, whose effectiveness we Grizzlies fans surely know all about. As for the Memphis bench, Jerryd Bayless seems to be the only player even worthy of consistent mention. His presence as somewhat of a liason between the starters and bench, as he splits his time playing different roles with each throughout the game, been sensational since Rudy’s departure. Offensively and defensively. However, he alone cannot speak for the bench, and somebody, be it Quincy Pondexter, Darrell Arthur, Ed Davis, or heck, I’ll take Jon Leuer at this point, is going to have to step up with some semblance of consistency.
A Wolf Among Wolves