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Game #51: Finding Meaning in Limbo

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The Wolves face a short-handed Memphis Grizzlies team

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Grizzlies (30-22) at Timberwolves (19-31)
Target Center
8:00 CST, FSN

The Memphis Grizzlies have always been a tough matchup for the Wolves. The “grit-and-grind” era often outmatched the young Wolves’ intensity and the defensive-first type of game has not been the team’s strong suit.

This year, Memphis has managed to once again prove the pundits wrong, as a season that could have turned disastrous has instead seen the Grizzlies maintain their usual 4-6 spot in the West. Although they have morphed into a new-age pace and space team, where Marc Gasol has suddenly decided that he can shoot threepointers and is quite good at it.

Gasol has taken 184 threepointers this year and is shooting 40.8 percent on them. Before this year, he had taken 64 total threes in his career.

The Grizzlies’ revolution has forced Zach Randolph to the bench and JaMychal Green has taken his place.

The new 152 million dollar man Mike Conley is also having a career year, shooting 40.6 percent from three while scoring 19.2 points per game.

All the while, the Grizzlies still have the 5th best defensive rating in the league at 105.8.

A common NBA joke is how there are a few things in life that are always true. Death, taxes, and the Spurs being good. The Grizzlies should be added to that axiom, as they keep on finding ways to maintain relevancy, even if their aging stars would make one assume otherwise.

However, none of that really matters tonight.

The Grizzlies are on a tail-end of the dreaded road back-to-back, amidst a six-game road trip.

This will now be the second time this year when the Timberwolves played the Grizzlies during one of their “rest” games. The Wolves had their home opener this year against a barren Grizzlies roster and won 116-80.

Tonight should be a rather similar result, although Mike Conley will be playing tonight. It would be perhaps the team’s biggest embarrassment of 2017 if the Wolves allowed this game to slip away against the Grizzlies’ bench squad.

The Wolves will be without Zach LaVine, who has been ruled out the game tonight. Kris Dunn is also questionable, which means we could see quite a bit more of #FreeTyus.

LaVine’s injury makes it quite disappointing that the Grizzlies are not playing with their full squad, as this game could provide an addition to the small sample of Brandon Rush playing with the starters and how that change impacts the Wolves’ offense and defense.

Unfortunately, with a significant core of the Grizzlies’ starters resting tonight, this game really becomes a lose-lose proposition, although the Wolves have been rather talented at finding the “worst” lose part of that in years past. Either the Wolves run up the score and beat up a depleted Grizzlies team, or they manage to beat themselves through a combination of sloppy turnovers, poor decision making, and terrible defense and let Grizzlies steal a win.

Should be fun. Although if the Wolves do have a good game, this would be a pretty decent opportunity for either Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins to finally break that 50-point barrier on the season.

Expected Starters

Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio

Andrew Wiggins

Brandon Rush

Gorgui Dieng

Karl-Anthony Towns

Injuries: LaVine Out (left-knee), Adriean Payne Out (illness), Pekovic Out (the usual), Dunn Questionable (sore right knee)

Grizzlies (Starting Lineups not released, soooo this is my guess)

Mike Conley

James Ennis

Vince Carter

JaMychal Green

Brandon Wright (although could easily be Zach Randolph)

Injuries: Gasol, Allen, Parsons Out (rest)

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Grizzlies match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Of course, these numbers have zero application for this game, as the Grizzlies will likely be starting 40-year-old Vince Carter.

Factor / Wolves / Grizzlies

eFG% / 50.8 / 48.7

TOV% / 15.0 / 13.2

ORB% / 26.9 / 24.3

FTR / .281 / .280

Prediction: I would say that we should hope that Adriean Payne is playing by the early fourth quarter, as if he is not in, the Wolves are doing something very wrong. However, as Payne is out with an illness, maybe the new goal should be a Jordan Hill sighting? .

Wolves - 110
Grizzlies - 95