After losing the first three games of Summer League, the Wolves entered tournament play as the lowest seed, 24, and without their most dynamic weapon — Kris Dunn (concussion) — available to play.
Behind the cool, calming influence of second-year point guard Tyus Jones, the Wolves have found their groove when it matters most. After beating the 9th seeded Spurs in the first round yesterday they faced the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies at the Thomas and Mack center this afternoon in round two.
Jones thoroughly outplayed rookie Wade Baldwin, who was drafted out of Vanderbilt with the 17th pick in last month's draft, on his way to 26 points, 10 assists, and four assists in the 89-85 victory of the Grizzlies.
"I think, similar to yesterday, credit goes to the guys for their resiliency in terms of, it would be very easy to just say we'll just play our five games and get out of here after having a tough game two games ago against Cleveland," coach Ryan Saunders said. "They've fought back, they've gotten better."
This wasn't a wonderful game to watch by any means. 38 total turnovers and way too many foul calls, 55 combined, but seeing Jones run the show and help the Wolves survive and advance was pretty cool. He was the best player on the floor today and he's pretty great at this whole tournament thing (DUKE!). Yes, it's Summer League, but this is still a positive development, especially for how high people are on Baldwin as a prospect. Jones whooped him up out on the court today and looked really good.
"I've been working with Tyus for a whole year, so I obviously have a special relationship with him and I want him to do well," Saunders said. "To see him, I'm probably tougher on him than anybody through the summer league, but to see him push through things, he's tough. I have a lot of respect for Tyus."
For the Grizzlies, Levi Randolph showed out. He scored 26 points on 12 shots, adding four rebounds, two assists, and four steals to his line.
Tyus Jones' Media Availability
What was working today?
I think just being aggressive coming off of high ball screens and trusting my teammates. Everyone was playing together. The last two games we've really been trusting each other with making the extra pass and then everyone taking their shots with confidence. Coach has been telling us, when you get an open shot, knock it down. We're just playing with confidence and playing as one.
How much more comfortable are you getting?
A lot more comfortable, more comfortable each game. Coming in, as my second year, I was already way more comfortable than last year, just trying to build on that each game, working on what we're seeing in film that I can improve on, there are different things like that, small adjustments each game that I'm trying to key in on.
On the defensive side of the ball, how I'm playing the screen and roll, high screen and rollls, just being in the right spot every play, trying to help my teammates out. A lot of stuff on defense, and on offense, just to get more efficient.
On playing for Ryan Saunders?
It's been great. Me and Coach Ryan are very close. Like he said, we've worked a lot together this past year, so we're really close. I trust him, he trusts me. I just try to be an extension of him on the floor. It's been a lot of fun, and we're just going to try and keep it rolling.
On taking leadership: any extra pressure from that?
No pressure. No pressure, just trying to make the right play. If it's scoring, so be it. If it's passing and setting my teammates up, so be it. If it's making the extra pass or just getting us in the offense and my teammates making plays, so be it. I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to win. Today it was scoring the ball and just being ready a play and accepting the challenge, no matter what it is. You can't look at it as pressure, you've got to look at it as a challenge. That's why you work out, that's why you put up extra shots, that's why you go so hard in the offseason, for you to implement it in a game.
What's next after Vegas?
Just right back to the grind, working out, getting back in the weight room, just trying to improve my body and keep improving on the court. Lots of shots, lots of drill work and trying to be in the best shape that I can.
- Coty Clarke finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, but had five turnovers and played out of control at times. Still, he added an extra punch off the bench that helped the Wolves win.
- Devin Thomas looks like a rebounding machine at times. He grabbed 10 rebounds in just under 23 minutes. The last few rebound he had in crunch time were very clutch. "His energy has been great for us," Saunders said. "It's something that we needed, I think it definitely proves that not everybody needs to be a scorer, a knockdown shooter, somebody who does everything on the offensive end, but somebody who can do some of the dirty work, and he's taken some pressure off other guys in Adreian Payne and Tyus and some of those guys where he can get us some extra possessions."
- Andrew Harrison struggled with his shot (2-10) but made up for it at the charity stripe going 12-14.
Next Up: Wolves are heading to the quarterfinals to face the winner of Golden State and Toronto. The game is set for Saturday at 3 pm CT (wonderful news for me!)