Well, there’s never a dull moment between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Memphis Grizzlies. Tonight was no exception. The Wolves had multiple chances to put the game to bed and, as has been a consistent theme this year, failed to do so. In the end, the Grizzlies team ran out 119-112 winners.
After trailing for the lion’s share of the night, Memphis turned the heat up in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wolves 37-28. They were led by their rookie sensation Ja Morant, who had 25 points (12-18 FG), 4 rebounds and 7 assists, and serial Wolves-killer Dillon Brooks, who had a 28-point night. This shot in particular felt like a bone-crusher, as Brooks nailed the triples with Robert Covington right in his grill to give the Grizzlies their first lead since it was 2-0 at the beginning of the game.
Both Brooks and Morant were huge down the stretch, hitting everything they touched whether it was contested or not. Jaren Jackson Jr, another extremely promising youngster, was also big in the fourth, nailing three straight triples on his way to 21 points.
By pretty much all metrics, Minnesota have been the best defensive team in the league over the past 10 games, but they struggled to maintain that moniker tonight. The perimeter defense was fairly solid thoughout, giving up just eight 3-pointers and restricting the Grizz to 28.6 percent shooting from deep. However, they allowed Memphis to shoot 51.7 percent from the field overall.
Around the rim, Gorgui Dieng, Naz Reid and Noah Vonleh weren’t making life hard enough on the Grizzlies’ ball-handlers and big men. Combine that with the unreal shot-making of Morant, Jackson and Brooks and life became very hard for Ryan Saunders and co. His team didn’t help themselves, though. They gave up the rock 18 times on the night, many of which led to easy fast break buckets.
Other than that, it’s hard to say Minnesota played a genuinely bad game. They just lost momentum at crucial times and struggled to get it back with the Grizzlies fans cheering them home. Minnesota shot 44.4 percent from the field and 32 percent from long-range while dishing 23 assists on their 40 field goal makes. All of those numbers aren’t terrible and could easily be winning numbers for this team. Unfortunately, they were just outplayed by a Memphis team who has been very good of late.
For the Wolves, their latest first-round pick had a special night of his own. Jarrett Culver produced his best ever NBA game, contributing 24 points (8-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 5-7 FT), 5 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals. He was doing it all out there, which has become a trend lately, and looking extremely confident while doing it. For a rook that has clearly struggled to get himself adjusted to the big leagues, it was extremely fun to watch.
You can check out his game highlights here:
Elsewhere, Robert Covington continued his hot stretch with 17 points (6-10 FG, 4-7 3PT) and 6 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins had 15 points (6-13 FG, 3-8 3PT) and Naz Reid contributed 10 points (3-6 FG, 1-3 3PT) and 5 boards off the bench. It would be nice to see Wiggins be a bit more aggressive but all around he worked himself into the game after starting the night looking out of sorts.
The guard play was a problem for Minnesota tonight. Shabazz Napier, coming off four 20-point games in a row, couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean and finished with just 1 make from his 7 field goal attempts and just 6 points total. Jeff Teague did finish with 18 points on 7-14 shooting, but his indecisiveness on offense and inability to guard anybody let the team down multiple times — as it has all season.
All in all, it will be a tough one to swallow for Minnesota. They should have won this game, no doubt about it, they were the better team for the majority of the night. Unfortunately, especially with Karl-Anthony Towns still out, they still haven’t learned to put their foot on the opponents neck and run away with a lead. That came back to haunt them tonight.
Next up, the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.