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Game Preview #22: Wolves vs Grizzlies

Ja Morant and the Grizz take their high flying offense into Target Center for a matchup with the Karl-Anthony Towns-less Timberwolves.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

What To Watch For

The Timberwolves enter Wednesday night’s contest riding a brutal three-game losing streak in which the team has allowed 142, 137 and 110 points during that stretch. In their last game on Monday, they lost All-NBA forward Karl-Anthony Towns with a right calf strain that will sideline him for four-to-six weeks.

Now, they face Ja Morant and a Grizzlies squad coming off two consecutive double-digit victories against the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks; Memphis scored 132 and 127 points in those games, respectively. If Minnesota wants to come away victorious in what is trending towards a one-way rivalry, they will need to lean on their generationally great defensive center Rudy Gobert to get it done on defense.

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

A New Starting Lineup

Minnesota Head Coach Chris Finch will roll out a new starting lineup, presumably one with D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson and Gobert, if McDaniels can play tonight.

That lineup has played a whopping four (4) possessions together this season, per Cleaning the Glass. Given that Russell and Edwards have been defensive liabilities for the better part of this season, Finch’s hope lies in that an elite defensive front-court of McDaniels, Anderson and Gobert can keep Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams from dominating the game on the interior.

Simply put, the Timberwolves have been terrible with Gobert on the floor and Towns on the bench. In 432 possessions with those lineups, Minnesota holds a net rating of -8.9 (4th percentile), largely due to an offensive rating of 103.2 (4th percentile), per Cleaning the Glass. In 213 of those trips, Russell has shared the floor with Gobert, but the Wolves have found even worse results; they hold an offensive rating of 96.7 (1st percentile) and a net rating of -14.1 (3rd percentile). The defense has been strong (110.8 defensive rating, 68th percentile), but the offense has been terrible, furthering the need for Minnesota to win on defense.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Foul Trouble

The Wolves will need to win on defense tonight and that will hinge upon whether or not McDaniels is in foul trouble.

McDaniels has shown the ability to bother Morant with his length over the last year, but a big part of that came from playing in a high wall scheme that saw Towns playing at the level of the screen, where he often trapped and doubled Morant up above the arc. Now that the Wolves will deploy drop coverage, it will be key for McDaniels to fight over screens from Adams, which is no small feat. The third-year swingman played excellent defense on Tyrese Haliburton last week, holding the Indiana Pacers star point guard to 10 points on 4/15 shooting. He’ll have to limit the damage Morant inflicts tonight, but obviously can’t do that if Morant gets him into foul trouble.

The same goes for Gobert. If he struggles to defend the strong Memphis interior duo of Jackson Jr. and Adams, or is forced to foul Morant on free runs to the rim, the Wolves’ chances of winning plummet. While there is no Towns to come and save the day, there is no Jordan McLaughlin run to be sparked or minutes to be stolen with Taurean Prince out there, as all three are out tonight with various injuries.

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

Will Anthony Edwards Take His Game to Another Level?

In 27 career games played without Towns, Anthony Edwards has averaged 16.3 points on 38.4/31.8/77.1 shooting splits, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists-to-2.2 turnovers. If you filter that down to just the 2021-22 season, those averages become 19.8 points on 45.7/27.0/83.3 shooting, 2.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 4.6 turnovers across five contests.

If Minnesota wants to stay afloat during Towns’ absence, Edwards needs to play at the All-Star level he has shown he’s capable of. He will need to average north of 25 points per game, five rebounds and five assists in order to put the Timberwolves in a good position when KAT returns.

Edwards has shown no problem bringing the energy for games against the Grizzlies and he will need to do that starting tonight. Given that Desmond Bane is still out with a big toe sprain, Edwards will draw either a banged up Dillon Brooks or John Konchar on the perimeter and needs to win that matchup on both ends of the floor. Ant has the opportunity to launch an All-Star campaign with inflated numbers during Towns’ time on the mend. I’d imagine something like that could fuel him, and he needs to use it to his advantage in a big spot at home.

Injury Reports



  • Jaden McDaniels (illness)


  • Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
  • Taurean Prince (right shoulder sublaxation)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)



  • Dillon Brooks (right thigh soreness)


  • Jake LaRavia (left foot soreness)


  • Desmond Bane (right big toe sprain)
  • Danny Green (left knee surgery recovery)
  • Ziaire Williams (right patellar tendinitis)