- Who: Memphis Grizzlies (31-17) at Minnesota Timberwolves (25-25)
- When: 6:30 PM CST
- National TV: NBA TV
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +3 | Total: 238 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
ready for some fun.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 27, 2023
Wolves vs. Grizzlies
6:30pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
» @BallySportsNOR / @NBATV
Preview » https://t.co/fAVto1hhUI pic.twitter.com/WkYA7EIE5k
What to Watch For
Ant is on a Heater
Anthony Edwards is one of the league’s premier young talents. We all know this, but recently, his game has taken a significant leap. In his last five games, Edwards is averaging 30.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks on 47/42/86 shooting splits. Those numbers are bonkers, especially for a 21-year-old.
Edwards is the classic example of playing to the level of the competition. He’s had some lackluster games against middling teams where he only really shows up for a few stretches of the game. However, when facing top tier opponents, Edwards yearns for the spotlight. He has a showmanship to his game and relentlessly finds ways to contribute. Edwards has continued his trend towards being the offensive initiator as his usage has jumped to 32.3 in his last five games compared to his season rate of 28.4. This change in play style helps diversify the offense, forces Edwards to stay engaged, and lessens the creation responsibilities for D’Angelo Russel, instead allowing him to thrive as an off-ball shooter and second-side creator.
Against the Grizzlies, I would expect more of the same. Judging by their on-court interactions, Edwards doesn’t have much love for Dillon Brooks, something he has in common with most non-Grizzlies fans. In these types of matchups, Edwards always brings a little extra to his game. In his last three games against the Grizzlies, Edwards is averaging 29 points, 5.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.7 blocks on 52/45/82 shooting splits. On a (technically) nationally televised game against a rival, and given his recent form, Edwards could be in for a big night.
Battle at the Rim
So much of this game is going to be determined between around the rim as both teams love to attack it and are some of the best at protecting it. The Timberwolves currently rank fourth in the league in at-rim shot frequency, while the Grizzlies rank 10th and first in short mid-range shot frequency, per Cleaning the Glass. Luckily for the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies rank 28th in at-rim field goal percentage, but the also lead the league in offensive rebounds per game and rank second in offensive rebounding rate. The Grizzlies have some lethal shooters on their team, but they use them to spread the floor to create driving lanes and offensive rebounding opportunities for their relentless athletes.
Even though the Timberwolves rank sixth in the league in at-rim field goal percentage, they are going to have a tough time as the Grizzlies have the best rim defense in the league. Steven Adams being out should help this significantly, but Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a complete menace on defense. Jackson is the Defensive Player of the Year front runner, and for good reason. The Grizzlies have a defensive rating that is 8.2 points lower when he is on the court than off (97th percentile), he has a block rate of 5.7 (100th percentile), and a steal rate of 1.6 (85th percentile). These are horrifying numbers and the expectation should be that Jackson will continue to be a nightmare. However, there is a sliver of optimism to be had. Jackson has played nearly 48% of his minutes with Adams on the floor. In these minutes the Grizzlies allow a free throw rate of just 19.4 (77th percentile). When Jackson plays without Adams, though, the Grizzlies are giving up a free throw rate of 25.2 (9th percentile). Adams has missed the Grizzlies last two games and Jackson has recorded four and six fouls respectively. Jackson has also averaged 4.8 fouls over his last five games. Willfully attacking the likely DPOY seems foolish, but if the Timberwolves can get him in foul trouble, it could make their lives so much easier.
(video via Wolves Clips on Twitter)
Prepare for Shenanigans
What would rivalry week be without a bit of shenanigans? It’s always something with the Grizzlies. Whether they are getting in tiffs with court-side TV personalities or saying they’re not worried about anyone in the Western Conference despite winning nothing yet or taking cheap shots on defense (shoutout Dillon Brooks), something ridiculous is bound to happen. The Timberwolves wouldn’t fall under the classification of a mature team, but there could be some gamesmanship opportunities to be had.
Riling the Grizzlies up isn’t too difficult. Both of Brooks and Ja Morant were ejected the last time they visited the Target Center. Brooks tends to run hot, Jackson believes he’s never committed a foul in his life, and Morant is a problem unless the physicality reaches a level he doesn’t like and the whistle doesn’t follow. Tonight’s game is bound to be physical with perceived missed calls galore. The complaining to the referees will be incessant. Morant will inevitably waste at least a full minute by walking the ball up the court. If the Timberwolves can impose themselves physically and not lose their cool, though, they could let the Grizzlies take themselves out of the game.
- Rudy Gobert — Right Groin Soreness
- Jordan McLaughlin — Left Calf Sprain
- Taurean Prince — Left Angle Sprain
- Karl-Anthony Towns — Right Calf Strain
- Matt Ryan — G League Two-Way
- Desmond Bane — Right Knee Soreness
- Steven Adams — PCL Srain
- Danny Green — Left Knee Surgery Recovery
- John Konchar — Concussion Protocol
- Kenneth Lofton Jr. — G League Two-Way