Well, we thought Memphis would punch back, and punch back they did. There’s a lot that went wrong for Minnesota, but they lost this game because Memphis was the aggressor. From the opening tip, the more aggressive team, and it showed all night long.
In a way, tonight felt like the Wolves “welcome to the playoffs” moment. The Grizzlies played with a ferocity and an intensity that wasn’t there on Saturday, and the Wolves didn’t match that. The attention to detail and physicality from Memphis was noticeably different than what they brought on Saturday, and they’re a damn good team when they play with that physicality. That’s why the series is now 1-1 heading back to Minneapolis.
The guy who most obviously was bothered by the uptick in intensity was Anthony Edwards. His box score shows 20 points on decent efficiency, but while the game was still in the balance he played poorly and erratically. It’s good for him to have experienced the highs and the lows of the playoffs right away, and he now has an opportunity to bounce back at home on Thursday night.
There were other guys who struggled, but we don’t need to belabor the point too much. Pretty much every Timberwolves player played bad, regardless of if their box score looks okay.
With that said, through two games now, Minnesota has gotten 21 total points on 22 FGA from D’Angelo Russell. That’s not going to get it done. He has been oddly passive and apprehensive to take his signature pull-ups. Minnesota desperately needs him to play better and to take and make tough shots. That’s what they brought him here for, and he has not delivered in either game so far. There’s still time, and D’Lo isn’t a guy who gets rattled easily. He’s never too high, never too low, and that will serve him well right now.
There was one “play” that kind of just encapsulated the entire attitude from the Wolves tonight, and it occurred towards the end of the first half. With the bench unit reeling a bit, Russell was set to come into the game, but ultimately didn’t make it to the scorer’s table in time and missed the final several minutes of the half. That didn’t decide the game, but it might just show that maybe the Wolves were a little too nonchalant in a game that required their utmost focus and attention.
From and X’s and O’s standpoint, it was not surprising to see Memphis play much better without Steven Adams on the floor. They were much more athletic and active with either of Xavier Tillman or Brandon Clarke on the floor. That’s going to be expected, but Minnesota can’t let Memphis continue to hammer them on the offensive glass when Adams is out of the game. That’s a byproduct of hustle and refusing to box-out, which is again a lack of attention to detail.
That’s what the playoffs are about. You simply must be locked in at all times. You can’t relax or take your foot off the gas. The Wolves did their job, earning a split in Memphis, but this will surely leave a sour taste in their mouth. Now, it’s time to watch the film, make adjustments, and come back better on Thursday at Target Center.
It’s difficult to single out one or just a few players for the Grizzlies who had good games, but we can start with Ja Morant, who had 23/9/10. He did a much better job of getting everyone involved tonight and controlling the game. He helped players like Jaren Jackson Jr. (16 points, 4-7 from 3) get going, and that was a massive boost for Memphis.
The Wolves simply need to be tougher, both mentally and physically on Thursday.