The Memphis Grizzlies are 31-18 this season, and are seven games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division. The Grizzlies would currently be the #5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and would play the 33-18 Denver Nuggets in the first round. Memphis is coming off a 99-93 win Friday night at home against the Golden State Warriors.
Next up for the Grizzlies is a home game against the 18-29 Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday evening (5:00 pm Central, FSN-North, Sports South, NBA LP). To say the Timberwolves are reeling would be a vast understatement. The Timberwolves have gone 2-14 in their last 16 games, including 3 losses in a row. Minnesota lost 100-94 at home to the New York Knicks Friday night. Memphis will play 5 straight teams that are at least 10 games under .500 starting with this game.
This is the second straight opponent that the Grizzlies have an 8 game winning streak against, after the Grizzlies defeated Golden State for the ninth straight time. The Timberwolves have also lost 6 straight times in Memphis. They haven’t beaten the Grizzlies since 2009. This is the first of 3 meetings between the teams this year, and they will play March 18 in Memphis, and March 30 in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is coached by Rick Adelman. Many thought the T-Wolves would be a dark horse playoff contender, but they have been decimated by injuries to their best players, and the playoffs seem to be out of the question. Minnesota is being outscored 97-95 this season. The Timberwolves are shooting 43.6% from the field and 29.9% from 3 point range. The Wolves are #24 in field goal percentage and last in the league in 3 point shooting. Minnesota makes 73.1% of their free throws. The T-Wolves average 43.6 rebounds per game, and give up 40.7 per game. Minnesota is #6 in both categories. Minnesota opponents are shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. The Timberwolves average 21.8 assists, 7.9 steals, 5 blocks, and 15.2 turnovers.
The list of injured players for the Timberwolves is staggering. Leading scorer Kevin Love is out until mid-March with a broken hand. Guard Brandon Roy is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Guard Malcolm Lee is out for the season with a knee injury. Forward Chase Budinger is out until at least after the All-Star break with a knee injury. Forward Andrei Kirilenko is day to day with a quad injury but will not play Sunday. Guard Jose Barea is probable with a foot injury.
So who is playing for the Timberwolves? Well against the Knicks, they started forwards Mickael Gelabale and Derrick Williams, center Nikola Pekovic, and guards Luke Ridnour & Ricky Rubio. Barea, forward Dante Cunningham, and guard Alexey Shved all played at least 19 minutes off the bench. Pekovic averages 16 points and 8.8 rebounds. Ridnour averages 11.9 points, 3.9 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. Barea averages 11.4 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.1 rebounds. Shved averages 10.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game. Williams averages 9.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. Cunningham averages 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Rubio averages 6.6 points, 6.3 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.
The Grizzlies are coached by Lionel Hollins. Memphis is outscoring teams 93-90 this season. They are first in the league in points allowed and are #27 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.6% from the field and 34.1% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #25 in both categories. Memphis is #5 in the league in free throw shooting at 79.1% from the line. The Grizzlies average 42.9 rebounds per game and give up 38.8. Memphis is #1 in rebounds allowed and #12 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 44.2% from the field and 35.8% from 3 point range. Memphis is #10 in opponents’ field goal percentage and #16 in 3 point defense. The Grizzlies average 20.7 assists, 8.9 steals, 5.1 blocks and 14.7 turnovers a game.
Forward Zach Randolph averages 15.7 points, 11.7 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.4 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding, and was chosen a a reserve for the Western Conference All-Star team. He leads the league in double doubles with 30. Randolph had been the subject of trade rumors, but that probably won’t happen with the Rudy Gay trade and with the cost saving trade involving 3 reserves the Grizzlies made with the Cleveland Cavaliers two weeks ago. Center Marc Gasol averages 13.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, a steal, and 1.7 blocks per game. Point Guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.3 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Forward Tayshawn Prince was acquired from the Detroit Pistons in the Gay deal. He is averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game this season between both teams. Tony Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league. Allen averages 8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Point guard Jerryd Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, forward Darrell Arthur, guard Tony Wroten, and forwards Ed Davis and Austin Daye make up the rest of the rotation. Forward Jon Leuer was acquired in the trade with the Cavaliers. Pondexter is out indefinitely with a grade 2 MCL sprain. The Grizzlies also called up forward Chris Johnson from the D-League to fill out the roster.
Although the Grizzlies have been inconsistent recently, the Timberwolves would kill to have those kind of problems. With so many injuries, they are basically just trying to perform triage and stop the bleeding until they get their players back. By then it will be too late to do anything for this season, but they have a great young nucleus and can build for the future. The Grizzlies should win this game handily, but they have shown they lose focus in games like this at times.