MINNEAPOLIS – The Wolves forced a season-high 24 turnovers on Saturday night in front of a packed house, and second consecutive sellout at Target Center since Kevin Garnett's return, but Kevin Martin's 3-point attempt missed with 8.1 seconds left and the Grizzlies moved to 42-16 with a 101-97 victory.
Marc Gasol led the way for Memphis, finishing with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Conley knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining which ultimately pushed the Grizzlies past the Wolves. Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points to lead the Wolves, and Ricky Rubio had another good all-around game – 13 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, four steals and four turnovers – but struggled again with his shot, finishing 3-12 from the field.
Rubio played 10 games this month after returning from injury, but his in-depth work with shooting coach Mike Penberthy has yet to pay dividends (though it's still too early to truly say) – he finished the month shooting 34.4% from the field. Of course, Rubio does everything above-average besides shooting and finishing at the rim right now. That's no secret. He still runs the show, impacting the game in a huge way for the Wolves on both ends of the court, but hopefully he can respond in March with better shooting percentages. To beat a dead horse, that's the next step he needs to take in his game.
Both Wiggins and Rubio played 42 minutes, which is just way too many. You can't tell me that Lorenzo Brown and Glenn Robinson III are incapable of playing 6-8 minutes to decrease the load on the two cornerstones. Not only would that allow the coaching staff to assess those young players, but it will help take unnecessary mileage off the two most valuable players in the franchise. But that's a topic for another column.
Garnett was ejected early in the third quarter after picking up his second technical foul from referee Bennett Salvatore after slamming the ball down in frustration after getting called for a foul on Jeff Green. Flip Saunders said he didn't believe Garnett should have been ejected, which nearly 20,000 screaming fans certainly agreed with, and had an NBA rulebook in hand when he came to the podium after the game.
"Their argument was that you can't do that," said Saunders. "My argument, by the rulebook states that any action has to be in resentment to the call or a no call. What he did is he bounced the ball because he was frustrated with himself that he made a foul. In no way was it a resentment. You can take the ball and throw it against the basket stanchion, if it's because you're disagreeing with the call then it should have been (a technical). My point is he wasn't disagreeing with the call. So when it was said that it's an automatic technical foul, it's not. By the rulebook it's not. We'll try to get a better interpretation so we don't worry about it down the line."
In other news, Saunders said Nikola Pekovic's foot was sore after the game – I'm assuming it was that troublesome ankle that flared up on him again – which limited him to only 12 minutes.
"I looked at him running out there, he was struggling up and down the floor, so I took him out," Saunders said. "I didn't think he was going to be effective, I didn't think it was worth him playing." He continued, "we'll have to reevaluate it on Monday and see where he's at." Pekovic said his ankle started to feel terrible and he couldn't go any longer (the back-to-back probably didn't help), leaving his status for Monday's game against the Clippers up in the air. Erring on the side of caution would be wise given his large contract and the fact that the team isn't going to the playoffs.
Gorgui Dieng stepped up in his place, but Marc Gasol proved too talented to stop in the second half. Gasol tallied his 16th double-double of the season. Dieng finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in 39 minutes.
"All of a sudden you look and your two centers going up against the two best big men in the league are a second-year player and a guy who has played seven games in the NBA [Adreian Payne]," Saunders said during the press conference. "You're looking at them and saying guys you're in for the long haul because there's nobody else."
"It is what it is," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said in response to squeaking out a win against the Wolves. "It's a tough week. We know we can play better. We found a way to get the win. It was a very ugly, ugly game probably from both sides point of view. A lot of free throws, a lot of turnovers, especially by us. We've got to get refocused."
- Saunders on Gary Neal, who scored 16 points on 4-8 shooting off the bench tonight:
He's played well for us. He's been a great addition for us. As I told a lot of people out here who were saying we were going to buy him out, I said we're not buying him out. We scouted him, we saw what he did, we like him and we thought he could be part of what we're doing now and part of what we're doing in the future.
- Wolves forced a season-high 24 turnovers (leading to 32 points) tonight, which allowed them to stay in the game until the final moments. Memphis shot 59.4 percent from the field on 64 shots, while Minnesota shot only 38.6 percent on 88 field goal attempts.
- Points in the paint: 52-30 in favor of the Grizzlies.
- Rubio is averaging 12.7 points, 9.0 assists, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals over his last six games, but continues to struggle with his shot (as noted above).
- I've been waiting impatiently all season to see LaVine play off the ball next to Rubio, instead of watching him become completely overwhelmed at point guard (which happened again tonight in his limited minutes). Saunders tried out a 3-guard lineup in the fourth quarter with Rubio-LaVine-Neal and immediately he looked more comfortable on the court. This was one of the first plays with that trio playing together...
- Wiggins attacked the offensive glass and had a ferocious putback slam with 19 seconds left in the game to cut the score to 98-97. Mike Conley made both free throws to push the Grizzlies lead back to three and Martin's missed 3-pointer ultimately sealed the fate of the game, but it was an incredible play by the future rookie of the year that literally made me say "OH MY GOD." Wiggins was aggressive throughout the game.
- There were five technical fouls in the game tonight...
Marc Gasol gets tech, then Dave Joerger... tech. Technicals for everyone! KG got two. He was tossed. Flip has one. Lord have mercy.— canishoopus (@canishoopus) March 1, 2015