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Playoff Game Preview #3: Wolves vs Grizzlies

The Wolves return home to The Crib with a chance take a 2-1 series lead

Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Two Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (1-1) at Memphis Grizzlies (1-1)

When: 6:30pm CST

TV: Bally Sports North, TNT

Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

Line: Wolves +2 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

What To Watch For

I’m as guilty of anyone as overthinking a playoff series. People spend countless amounts of time on Twitter telling coaches what adjustments they need to make, who to play, what defense to run, and on and on it goes. Sometimes, though, it’s a lot more simple than that, and to a pretty major degree, I think the Wolves are in a simple place.

Either their franchise cornerstone, max-salary players are going to show up, or the Timberwolves will lose.

D’Angelo Russell has 21 total points on 22 FGA through two games. This is a guy who has branded himself as a clutch shot-maker. The Wolves moved heaven and earth to acquire this guy. Russell isn’t going to get rattled, so it’s not really a mental thing like it is with Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Timberwolves need more from Russell.

For one, he’s too important to the offense to only take 11 shots a game in the most important games of the season, but he also clearly has to make more of them. His passing is always going to be there, but without his scoring boost, the Wolves might not have enough in the tank to beat the 56-win Grizzlies. The Wolves don’t need him to score 30 points a night, but they sure as hell need more than 10 or 11. He’s been strangely passive in this series, and the Wolves need him to be more aggressive. Desmond Bane will be physical with him, but he is not long enough to truly bother Russell’s mid-range pull-ups. Let’s look for a few of those tonight, shall we?

As for Towns, he just has to find some sense of accountability for his actions and constant foul-trouble, put his head down, and go play basketball. This is the playoffs, where every little thing and little edge counts. It cannot be Karl vs the refs anymore. The Wolves need him locked in on being the hub of an elite offense, and the backbone of a capable defense. They do not need him flailing himself out of position, picking up cheap fouls (kick-outs), and spending time on the bench for any reason other than catching a quick breather. The Naz Reid minutes have been disastrous thus far, and KAT plays a direct role in how many of those minutes are necessary.

We could go into more detail about what to do with the bench rotation, but these two guys are going to set the tone for the game. Minnesota needs Towns and Russell to get off to a good start and be aggressive, but under control.

The Wolves also will need Anthony Edwards to be better than he was in Game 2, but I’m really just not worried about him. His poise and maturity has shown through of late to make for a perfect mix with his usual fun attitude. He’s going to be ready.

So, yeah, what the Wolves do with the backup center minutes are important, but all of it is moot if the Wolves don’t get more from their stars tonight. I think they’ll flush Game 2 out of their system and be ready to go. They have to be.

Injury Reports

It’s tough to beat that. Everyone is a go, and it’s good news to see Taurean Prince off of the injury report altogether. Minnesota needs him to supply them with good minutes off the bench tonight.

As for the Grizzlies, their injury report is also pretty straight forward. Santi Aldama (right knee soreness) and Killian Tillie (lower back procedure recovery) is OUT.

Prediction time — Today is a Positive Vibes Only type of day. The sun is shining in Minneapolis, and playoff basketball is back at The Crib (thanks for that one, Ant). I think Ant and D’Lo specifically come out ready to ball tonight. Behind the support of 19,000 of all of our closest friends, I’ll say Wolves 125, Grizzlies 117.

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