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Game Preview #42: Wolves at Grizzlies

Minnesota looks to get back on track against a rolling Memphis team

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (20-21) at Memphis Grizzlies (29-14)

When: 7:00pm CST

TV: Bally Sports North

Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

Line: Wolves +4

What To Watch For

Following a disappointing loss in New Orleans on Tuesday night, Minnesota has an opportunity to make up for that by stealing one in Memphis. While the Wolves may have blow the Grizzlies out at Target Center, make no mistake, this is an elite team. If the Wolves do not come out ready to play, they will get embarrassed tonight.

The Grizzlies have won ten in a row, vaulting all the way up to third place in the Western Conference. They are remarkably impressive, and it predictably all starts with their star, Ja Morant. The Murray State product is averaging roughly 25/6/7, and his bravado has infected his teammates. One big improvement for Ja this year has been his pull-up shooting. Per, he is shooting 36.7% on pull-up threes this year, which makes it much more difficult to slide under screens against him.

Luckily for Minnesota, they have a few options to throw at Morant, and while I expect that Memphis Grizzlies legend Patrick Beverley will get the first crack at it, I’d like to see Jarred Vanderbilt take a shot at it. Vando is quick as hell, and his length should be able to bother Morant a bit. Then, you can use Beverley on someone like Desmond Bane to stifle second-side actions. The cross-matches behind Vanderbilt could get a bit complex, but priority number one needs to be containing Ja, who is currently playing with more confidence than any player in the NBA.

While that’s what I would do, Beverley should be the betting favorite to start on Morant.

Aside from the obvious Ja-related concerns, the Wolves need to be at their best in scramble situations tonight. Morant is going to break a defense down, it’s just what he does, so the Wolves will need to be sharp helping and recovering out to shooters. With Steven Adams likely out again, the floor will be incredibly spaced assuming Jaren Jackson Jr starts at center again.

On the offensive end, I believe tonight will require a steady diet of Anthony Edwards barreling towards the rim. In Dillon Brooks’ absence, Memphis has given Ziaire Williams more responsibility guarding the best wing players on opposing teams. Edwards should have quite a size/strength advantage over the rookie, and Edwards drives should also open up offensive rebound opportunities for Karl-Anthony Towns and Vando since JJJ is prone to go for the block and leave his man. His shooting from deep has been great of late, but tonight calls for his rim attacks.

More than anything, I’m excited. The Wolves have played quite a few depleted teams of late, and now they get a challenge against the hottest team in the league. In many ways, Memphis is currently what Minnesota is striving to be. If the Wolves continue to progress, this could be a really fun rivalry over the next few years, with plenty of room for personality and trash-talk between Ant and Ja.

The Wolves are prone to overlooking inferior opponents, but that won’t be the case tonight. I expect KAT and Ant to show up ready for action, but it’s also entirely possible the team is a bit tired. They’ve been on the road for over a week now, with tonight signaling the end of their road trip.

Injury Report

Bolmaro remains out in health and safety protocols. Patrick Beverley is not on the injury report at all tonight, which is a good sign. Hopefully he isn’t on a minutes restriction tonight, as that would help stabilize Minnesota’s rotations. Being without Jaylen Nowell is a bummer. He’s a gamer who I believe would thrive in an environment like tonight. These are two small markets, but make no mistake, Memphis loves the Grizzlies, and that building will be rocking tonight. My personal wish is for the Wolves to work their way up to the fifth seed (two games back) for a first-round playoff matchup with Memphis.

Picking the game tonight is difficult. The optimist in me expects the Timberwolves to bounce back. As poorly as they handle success, this group seems to be better at handling failure than previous teams. In that sense, Timberwolves +4 looks appetizing, but it’s so hard to pick against Memphis the way they’re rolling right now. I’d rather look to the player props, where I think Jarred Vanderbilt over 9.5 rebounds is a steal. As long as the Wolves remain competitive, I think he easily reaches double digits. Neither Jaren Jackson Jr nor Kyle Anderson are strong rebounders, so there will be opportunity for Vando to attack the glass. The only concern here is if Vanderbilt does find himself on Morant, he could be pulled away from the rim a bit.