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Grizzlies 114, Wolves 103: Familiar Foes, Familiar Woes

Edwards leads, Russell is absent, and KAT fouls. This was a familiar game that showed the Wolves haven't grown since last year but was still one of the better performances we’ve seen this season.

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

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2022 campaign was stalled by the Memphis Grizzlies during the first round of the playoffs. To that end, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly’s retooling of this team was in part meant to address the weaknesses exposed then, namely rebounding. To fall short of this goal with Jaren Jackson Jr. in street clothes is really concerning. In the first stop of a four-game roadtrip, Minnesota sought their first regular season win in Memphis since 2019 in the playoff rematch. The Wolves came into the game 5-7 courtesy of their uninspired performances regardless of opponent strength (or lack thereof).

The playoff rematch and Kyle Anderson homecoming had the physicality we saw back in April. While the Grizzlies led off most of the first half, the Wolves hung around in slightly messy although competitive way. Anthony Edwards led the way early with 21 in the first half and finished 28/6/6 with a team high +2. Edward’s season high 7 free throw attempts were encouraging. Foul trouble continued to haunt this team. By halftime, Karl-Anthony Towns had 4 fouls and was joined on the bench by D’Angelo Russell and Rudy Gobert who also had three a piece. Heading to the locker room, only Edwards had a double digit score. Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks each provided 19 first half points for Memphis and Morant lead all players with six rebounds!

The Wolves uncharacteristically strong start to the third quarter forced Taylor Jenkins to call a timeout after just one minute. They started the quarter shooting 6/7 and ultimately came within one point of Memphis but couldn't quite close the gap. After that, the Wolves got careless with the ball committing unnecessary turnovers including back-to-back Kyle Anderson travels who was playing some point guard. Memphis finished the quarter up 96-84.

The Wolves hung around for most of the 4th but couldn’t string together stops or avoid making unforced errors. Towns fouled out with three minutes left in the game and Jaden McDaniels who played well also fouled out after tallying 15 points, four boards, and three steals. Bryn Forbes had his best game in Minnesota with 10 points on 50% shooting. Russel’s woes are increasingly worrisome. The player who was supposed to unlock this whole thing cannot continue to have nights like this. He shot 2/8 and had three turnovers, and although he’s never been known for his defense, he’s lacking either effort or awareness on an increasing number of plays. When asked why he sat Russell with almost five minutes left in the game, Head Coach Chris Finch replied “Just was looking for defense.”

Ironically, the 114-103 loss was actually better than most of what we’ve seen so far. Not all loses are equal as Minnesota fans know. This team lost tonight the way they often did last year— due to mental mistakes, being out-rebounded, and fouling. That doesn’t sound like good news but it’s actually a significant improvement from the uninspired (if not incompetent) basketball we’ve seen this year. Perhaps seeing familiar foe was good for this team. Even with that being said, if Memphis is going to win the boards 46-33, you wonder what the Gobert trade was for. For comparison, Memphis averaged 46 boards to Minnesota’s 40 inthroughout last year’s playoff series.

The Timberwolves continue their road trip in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Sunday at 5 PM CT.