Wolves fandom welcomed Tyus Jones back to the Target Center for the first time since he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies last summer, and it was an ugly affair to put it lightly.
Shooting struggles plagued both teams early on in this one, resulting in a low-scoring game that left a lot to be desired on the offensive end. Karl-Anthony Towns got off to a very slow start in terms of shooting (he finished with 21/12/5 on 7-20 shooting and 1-10 from three), which is why this one was a one-possession game for most of the first three quarters.
It wasn’t all bad for the Wolves in the first half. They were making a lot of solid ball-cuts to the rim and remained feisty on the defensive end. Robert Covington in particular was banging down low and winning against bigger bodies like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jae Crowder.
But the Grizzlies won the second-chance point battle by grabbing offensive rebounds and kicking it back out for open shots on the perimeter, which kept them in this one early on until Dillon Brooks heated up and carried them through later on.
The first half came to a close with Josh Okogie getting a couple free throws with seconds to spare followed by Covington sneaking into the inbound passing lane to steal the ball and get another quick bucket as time expired. What felt like a little momentum certainly did not last long.
Even though Jaren Jackson Jr. left the game early in the third quarter with a quick fourth foul, opening up some room for Towns to wreak havoc down around the basket, Minnesota was still not able to take advantage of his absence. Towns and Andrew Wiggins grabbed a few buckets here and there, but the Wolves as a unit left a lot of points on the board shooting just 39 percent from the field.
The silver lining in this one is that Jarrett Culver stepped up in the second half and finished with a solid 14 points and seven rebounds. He looked comfortable running the point and shot 50 percent from the field. One thing that sticks out to me, though, is that he’s consistently missing threes with the ball spinning off the rim. It looks like he has some awkward rotation on the ball coming off his shot – just something to watch moving forward.
The turning point seemed to come with a few minutes left in the third quarter and the Wolves inbounding after a timeout. Memphis came out in a full-court press that completely flustered the unsuspecting Wolves and resulted in a steal and quick bucket for the Grizzlies. The momentum seemed to shift at that point, with Memphis going on a run that ultimately put them out of Minnesota’s reach.
KAT’s first and only three came with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter at a point where it looked like that might be enough to swing the momentum back in Minnesota’s favor, but it was too little too late. The Wolves posted a few more empty possessions and Dillon Brooks made them pay for it (he finished with 26 points, following the 31-point performance he put up against Minnesota earlier this season). He looked way more excited to be playing the Wolves than the Wolves were to be playing Memphis for reasons no one will ever know.
Even after Jaren Jackson Jr. fouled out with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter, the Wolves were not able to capitalize. By and large this game was well within reach for Minnesota on all accounts. With no Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas or Kyle Anderson – and with Brandon Clarke leaving the game with a hip contusion after only playing 10 minutes – the Wolves were unable to capitalize on an unbelievably banged up Memphis team.
With this going down as the Wolves’ fifth straight loss at home, this is the one that will bring back the trauma of seasons past for Wovles fans. Minnesota has a few days rest before they’ll look to turn things around in Dallas on Wednesday.