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Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves

Wolves 119, Grizzlies 114: An Unguardable D’Angelo Russell

D’Lo took the game over in the fourth.

Are you not impressed by D’Angelo’s icy ways?
| Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — Playing in his 100th game for the Wolves, D’Angelo Russell kicked off the second half of the season with one of the finest performances of his career with the club.

Hosting one of the league's toughest opponents in the Memphis Grizzlies (41-20), Russell completely took over the game in the fourth. The Towns Takeover in crunch time happened nine days ago in a comeback win over Charlotte, and this time it was Mr. Ice in My Veins’ turn to get scorching hot in the final frame.

Russell accounted for 31 of the Wolves’ 35 points in the fourth quarter—scoring 23 and assisting the other 8—and finished with 37 points and 9 assists in the 119-114 win. “I trust my craft. Coach has an amazing system for us.” Again, D’Lo credited the fans.

“I think our fans made it intense. I don’t think us playing the Grizzlies made it intense. Our fans were up and loud and excited the whole game. We felt that energy. We fell into our own. You can credit the fans once again.”

Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points and 11 rebounds, but faced foul trouble, along with numerous other Wolves, throughout the night. Malik Beasley was key off the bench in what was one of his much need red-hot nights from deep (5-7) with 17 points. They needed that type of production with Edwards’ extremely rough 1-11 shooting night. “I like fighting back. I don’t back down from anybody,” said Beasley. And, as usual, Jarred Vanderbilt was a menace on the glass (12 rebounds) and was flying all around the floor cleaning up and creating messes for Memphis as he looked healthier than he has over the past month.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ziaire Williams both had 21 points to lead Memphis, who might’ve avoided an injury scare to their superstar point guard, Ja Morant. He left the game briefly but returned for the fourth quarter albeit not his true self as he limped throughout. This was a tough night for him, missing tons of good looks around the paint. He was held to 20 points on 25 shots and 9 free throw attempts. Desmond Bane, too, was not his usual self going 5-15 with 14 points. The Wolves totally disrupted the powerful backcourt duo.

It was the type of significant win the Wolves were hoping for coming out of the All-Star break. “We got whatever we wanted out of pick-and-roll [with Russell],” said coach Chris Finch. “They didn’t want to switch with Ja Morant.” That turned out to be a mistake as Russell diced them with drives to the rim, attacking the angles with extreme precision.

“Oh my god, he was incredible. He reminded me of myself out there,” said a laughing Anthony Edwards when asked about the phenomenal Russell showing.

In the process, the Wolves were able to do two things: overcome a terrible night on the glass, in which they allowed a season-high 26 offensive rebounds, and send a message to a team that might quickly become one of their rivals.

“We have to be better on the glass,” said Finch. “We talked about it at the half. We have to hit first.” Finch said the offensive rebounds on free throw misses were “inexcusable,” before concluding that he believes his team should be 3-1 vs. Memphis. The Wolves think they match up very well against the Grizzlies. Of course, Ant-Man, never lacking confidence, said they should be 4-0. “We beat them at their own game,” Finch added.

Is a Wolves-Grizzlies rivalry actually brewing? “Definitely a rivalry,” said Anthony Edwards. “I think my teammates think so, too.” Patrick Beverley (13 points and his usual gritty, annoying defense) was quick to log on to Twitter to share some thoughts on the Grizzlies afterward.

While Edwards struggled mightily on the offensive end, he drew praise for his stingy defensive effort. “He’s been really good on-ball all year,” said Finch. “He took the challenge. He started denying Ja [Morant].” And that’s vital for Edwards, to leave his mark on each game in a number of ways, even when he’s not scoring. He did that tonight.

“I shot like shit, I played like shit,” said the always honest Edwards. “I was still a +5 though. We won by 5.” He also showed again that he can defend the league’s best players when asked to, even if Beverley usually craves the matchup against the opposition's best point guard. “I can guard anyone in the NBA when it comes to 1-on-1 matchups,” said Edwards.

“I always tell people I’d rather get a game-saving block than a game-winning shot. I take pride in that. I feel like anybody can hit a game-winning shot. But I don’t think anybody can go get a game-winning block like LeBron do, or a game-winning stop.”

Russell had his greatest quarter as a Wolf and this time around it was his turn to take things over. “They can’t stop all of us. I think that’s the hardest thing for any team, to stop all three of us,” Russell said. “If something’s not working, we see the next plan working.”

This was the unguardable version of D’Angelo Russell. The version that allows the Wolves to beat the league’s very best teams.