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Game #17: Sign ‘O’ the Times

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Minnesota looks to stretch its streak with the Grit & Grind Grizzlies in town

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies (9-5) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-9)
2:30pm CT
FSN

Ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been playing like it’s 1999. Including the momentous win on Prince Night against the Portland Trailblazers with Kevin Garnett sitting baseline – which is a big deal in and of itself, especially considering that weeks ago he said on national television that Glen Taylor “doesn’t know shit about basketball” – the Wolves are are seventh in the league in 3-point percentage and ninth in made 3-pointers.

Relax, it’s fine – everything is fine. Your favorite team is emerging from the stone age at the speed of light, but let’s try not to get ahead of ourselves.

The Wolves were making promising strides in this department even before the trade happened a week ago, but the addition of Rob Covington and Dario Saric certainly doesn’t hurt. Although the latter has struggled from deep in his two games wearing a Wolves uni, the former has (SMALL SAMPLE-SIZE ALERT) shot 54 percent from beyond the arc on six-and-a-half attempts per game. Neither has been shy to pull the trigger, which will hopefully be contagious for the rest of the team that seems to have finally recognized the potential for a modern approach to the game.

After an impressive win against a hot Trailblazers squad, the Wolves look to add to their three-game win streak as they host the Memphis Grizzlies this afternoon.

The early signs from this season indicate that the Grizzlies have managed to figure out whatever the hell suddenly plagued their franchise last season as they’re off to a strong 9-5 start and are currently ranked fourth in the Western Conference.

Led by none other than Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, Memphis holds true to its “Grit and Grind” roots by slowing things down to a halt on offense and relentlessly smothering teams on defense. The fun and upbeat tempo the Wolves have displayed so far this season will be put to the test with the Grizzlies being one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of pace (29th compared to the Wolves’ ninth). Oftentimes in games like this, one team ends up adhering to the other’s pace, either trying to keep up or slowing down and becoming stagnant. How the Wolves respond to the Grizzlies’ style will be a big component in this one.

Memphis also ranks fourth in the league in steals and sixth in defensive rating (105.9). They have a lot of length across the board, and rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. could be an issue in the paint. Meanwhile, assuming Marc Gasol guards Karl-Anthony Towns, that matchup will prove crucial. Towns could have a tough time getting bullied around in the paint by Gasol, but if the rest of the Wolves are able to spread the floor out around him while maintaining Gasol and Conley, who is perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league, Memphis will ultimately have a difficult time stacking up.

There are few teams in the league that can keep up with the Wolves when they play like they did Friday night. The question is whether or not that caliber of play is sustainable for a team that is so prone to sporadic peaks and valleys.

Expected Starting Lineups

Wolves

PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Rob Covington
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns

Grizzlies

PG: Mike Conley
SG: Garett Tempe
SF: Kyle Anderson
PF: Jaren Jackson Jr.
C: Marc Gasol

Our pals at Grizzly Bear Blues have Memphis coverage for you.