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Home Opener Game Thread: Wolves vs. Grizzlies

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The Timberwolves take on the Memphis Grizzlies in their home opener, with Kris Dunn getting the start at point guard in place of the injured Ricky Rubio.

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies

Target Center, 7:00 PM CDT

TV Coverage on Fox Sports North

The Timberwolves will play their home opener tonight at Target Center against the Memphis Grizzlies. If you have a short memory, the Wolves lost to Memphis on the road in the season opener last Wednesday night.

It was announced late last night that Ricky Rubio has a confirmed sprain in his right elbow, and will be sidelined indefinitely. The “out indefinitely” designation is pretty ambiguous, but it is clear that he will not play tonight. Rookie Kris Dunn, the fifth overall pick, will make his first career NBA start at point guard in Rubio’s place.

Dunn has played relatively well through the very small sample size of two games, averaging just under 18 minutes with 6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He has the size and skills to be a bully defender, and has looked better than he did in the pre-season, particularly with his shot selection. Prior to the start of the season, Dunn was picked by the NBA’s 30 General Managers poll to win Rookie of the Year, an award most of us thought would only be likely in the event of Rubio being sidelined due to injury. There’s no word on how long Ricky will be out or whether he will be on a minutes restriction when he returns, but it’s safe to say that for the time being we can expect heavy playing time for Dunn at the point.

As Eric mentioned this morning, it will also be interesting to see what direction Tom Thibodeau wants to go with the backup point guard minutes. The other two true point guards, Tyus Jones and John Lucas III, did not see any floor time in the first two games. I’m not sure which of those two is more trusted to play significant minutes. Andrew Wiggins also took over as primary ball-handler in crunch time after Ricky went down on Saturday night, and it’s possible that we could see Point Wiggins again in some select possessions tonight. LaVine as a primary ball-handler is also a possibility, but not something I really want to happen. I would much rather just give the rock to the backup point guards - that’s why they’re on the roster.

Anyway, back to the matchup.

Expected Starting Lineups

Minnesota

PG - Kris Dunn

SG - Zach LaVine

SF - Andrew Wiggins

PF - Gorgui Dieng

C - Karl Anthony Towns

Memphis

PG - Mike Conley

SG - James Ennis

SF - Jarell Martin (Rookie)

PF - JaMychal Green

C - Marc Gasol

It should be noted that Memphis is very big at the wings and up front, and likes to stay with big lineups throughout, playing Zach Randolph as a sixth man. The Wolves had significant issues handling Gasol and Randolph, giving up a combined 37 points to the opposing big men. The Wolves also struggled to defend the three point line, where Memphis connected on 11 of 24 attempts from deep, with several wide open shots beyond the arc from blown defensive assignments. How well the Wolves can execute Thibodeau’s defensive concepts of pinning ball-handlers to the outside while also maintaining responsibility for their man-to-man defensive assignments will be something to keep an eye on. Defensive execution has been poor (to put it nicely) through the first two games. The Wolves’ current defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 114.1 is good for last place in the League. Not ideal.

Four Factors

Let’s take a quick look at how the Wolves and the Grizzlies match up in terms of the Four Factors. For those who don’t know, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Factor/Wolves/Grizzlies

eFG% / .503 / .510

TOV% / 11.9 / 11.9

ORB% / 30.8 / 25.4

FTR / .266 / .232

As you can see, Memphis has the slight edge in shooting percentages, although the Wolves are better at getting to the line (3rd in the League in FTR) and grabbing offensive boards (2nd in the League in that category). Turnovers are a push between the two clubs. Note that these numbers are based on the extremely small sample size of less than one week of NBA season play, so I don’t put too much stock in this, although it’s fun to look at numbers on the screen.

With all that said, this should be a fun game, and we can expect a decent attendance turnout with the home opener. Hopefully the Wolves can find a way to win.

The game thread is officially open. Chat it up. Go Wolves!