Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (4-7) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7-5)
Where: FedExForum — Memphis, Tennessee
When: 7:00pm CST (TV coverage on NBATV)
Why: The Wolves look to improve on their 46-36 all-time regular season record against the Grizz.
If it feels like the Wolves have played the Memphis Grizzlies 100 times this year, you’re not that far off. The Wolves travel back down to Memphis tonight for their third regular season game against the Grizzlies in this short season (fourth if you count the preseason game against the Grizz in October).
The Wolves enter the night with some much needed momentum from their Thursday night dismantling of the Philadelphia 76ers. John Meyer broke down the game here, a game in which the Wolves saw three players finish with 10+ points and 10+ rebounds, only the 14th time that has happened in franchise history.
Double/Double totals for season (career)— Jim Petersen (@JimPeteHoops) November 18, 2016
KAT 6 (58)
Gorgui 4 (46)
Wiggins 1 (4)
(table provided by the great Paul Swanson) pic.twitter.com/zwqR97ZkqY
In addition to a little momentum from the win, the Wolves also enter Memphis with red hot shooting from its starting wing players Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Wiggins and LaVine currently rank first and fourteenth respectively in three-point percentage, while the team as a whole continues to sit atop the league at 40.1 percent, ahead of teams like the Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, and Golden State Warriors. Writing that last sentence, after countless years of watching the Wolves sit near or at the bottom in nearly every three-point category, is a testament to the new Thibs regime and honestly makes me feel like a proud uncle.
As for our friends from the Volunteer State, they enter the second night of a back-to-back with some momentum of their own, carrying a three game winning streak into their matchup with the Wolves. Equally as important, the Grizz are finally getting some healthy bodies back, with Tony Allen returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for two weeks, and prized free agent Chandler Parsons (currently on a minutes restriction) continuing to play himself back into the player who last year with the Dallas Mavericks averaged 13.7 points on 49.2 percent shooting and shot 41.4 percent from deep.
Speaking of three-point shooting, the Wolves will have their hands full with “Splash Brother in Training” Marc Gasol, who has already attempted more threes this season (41) than he has in his last three seasons combined (31). Currently shooting 41.5 percent from deep, Gasol has also made more threes this season (17) than he has in all of his previous seasons combined (12). The “Grit & Grind” Grizzlies still play enough defense to hold opponents to 99.2 points per game, but the 2016-2017 version derives 32 percent of their field goal attempts from three, up from 22 percent last season. These aren’t your daddy’s Grizzlies!
Both the Grizzlies and Wolves find themselves amidst regime changes that include enhanced emphasis on analytics and three-point shooting. While the Wolves have seen these changes pay off significantly in some statistical areas, though not yet the most important one (wins and losses), the Grizzlies more veteran big three of Gasol/Conley/Parsons must stay healthy (a big question mark) and continue their development as offensive weapons to continue their playoff streak.
“And now, your starting lineups...”
Expected Starting Lineups
PG - Ricky Rubio
SG - Zach LaVine
SF - Andrew Wiggins
PF - Gorgui Dieng
C - Karl-Anthony Towns
PG - Mike Conley
SG - James Ennis
SF - Chandler Parsons
PF - JaMychal Green
C - Marc Gasol
Timberwolves: Brandon Rush (toe) and Shabazz Muhammad (knee) are both QUESTIONABLE. Nikola Pekovic (ankle) is OUT.
Grizzlies: Brandon Wright (ankle) is OUT. Parsons is QUESTIONABLE.
Let’s take a quick look at how the Wolves and Grizzlies match up using the Four Factors. As a quick refresher, 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% / 52.1% / 48.0%
TOV% / 14.6 / 15.7
ORB% / 29.4% / 23.5%
FTR / .318 / .283
As has been the case multiple times this season, the Wolves continue to dominate their opponent in all four categories. So why is their record currently three games below .500? As you may have heard, the Wolves are the opposite of fantastic in the third quarter, leaving them last in the league in third quarter net rating (-34.7). So far this season, Minnesota has only outscored their opponents once in the third quarter (ironically against the Grizzlies a few weeks ago when Memphis sat basically everyone but Vince Carter and coach David Fizzle). In a stat that seems too depressing to be real, the Wolves continue to be the only team in the league to accomplish both a positive net rating (4.9) and a losing record (4-7).
Conversely, the Grizzlies so far have managed a positive third quarter net ranking (0.9), which in this short sample size of a season isn’t really good or bad, but it’s definitely not the apocalyptic situation that the Wolves continue to find themselves in. Let’s hope Thibs packed the orange slices for tonight’s game to help alleviate this recurring theme and propel the Wolves to their second road win of the season.
PREDICTION: Wolves 102, Grizzlies 94