clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wolves 127, Grizzlies 103: Gobert’s Dominance, Offensive Balance Fuel Blowout Win

Rudy Gobert’s 16 points, 20 rebounds and six blocks led the Wolves to another blowout win in Memphis despite losing Anthony Edwards to injury.

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

Following an electric yet expected win on National TV against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves are opening up a three-game road trip this evening as they are in FedEx Forum taking on the 6-14 Memphis Grizzlies.

The Timberwolves were in Memphis just over two weeks ago as they handed the Grizzlies their 8th straight loss at home. Heading into that contest, the Grizzlies were one of the NBA’s worst offensive teams in the NBA, as they ranked 28th in offensive rating and owned the third-worst record league-wide (3-12). Since Minnesota’s win at the FedEx Forum on November 26th, Memphis has won three of its last four games, which has led to new-found momentum, especially after Desmond Bane’s 49-point performance against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night.

During that span, the Grizzlies’ offensive rating is ranked 24th, up from where they sat to open the season, but still isn’t great. However, their defense has been winning them games, as their defensive rating is second only to the Timberwolves in the NBA from November 29th to December 6th. It’s worth noting that all three of the Grizzlies’ latest wins were against sub-par teams:

  • The Utah Jazz — ranked 30th in offensive rating this season.
  • The Dallas Mavericks — played without Luka Doncic.
  • The Detroit Pistons — currently on an 18-game losing streak.

Despite Memphis’ improved play as of late, Friday night’s game was still a must-win as players made their way out for pregame warmups, as the Wolves were favored by 5.5 points to win before tip-off. Expecting the Grizzlies to put up more of a fight than they did the first time these teams met seems fair, but still, smashing the over on that spread in Minnesota’s favor should be easy money.

Off the jump, Rudy Gobert continued his MVP-level run, establishing his low-post presence against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. with six points in the paint and three offensive rebounds. Gobert also connected on his first shot from outside the paint this season with a little mid-range jumper early in the first quarter.

Despite Gobert’s offensive tone-setting impact, Memphis got whatever it wanted in the painted area through the first five minutes, which suddenly sparked the lively FedEx Forum crowd. This Grizzlies squad is missing their best player and still has severe issues, but they are obviously bringing much more intensity into this game.

With 8:17 left in the first, Anthony Edwards called for a sub after an awkward landing, immediately left the game and went back to Minnesota’s locker room, favoring his hip. Heading into tonight’s game, Edwards wasn’t included on the injury report.

Later in the first quarter, the Timberwolves said Ant was questionable to return and later ruled him out.

Minnesota should have no issues taking care of this struggling Grizzlies team without Edwards. However, the play of Karl-Anthony Towns will be crucial without the gravity that Ant brings to the floor. Towns’ shot was on early in the game (8 points on 3-of-5 from the floor), but he was forced to take a seat with eight minutes remaining in the opening frame after picking up two fouls.

Naz Reid provided some timely buckets in the first, but once he was rotated out, and Gobert was the lone starter on the floor, things started to dip on both sides for the Wolves, as Memphis closed the quarter on a 7-0 run.

Chris Finch deployed the “unicorn lineup” (Towns, Gobert, Reid), as Jim Petersen described, early in the second quarter, which created some matchup issues for the Grizzlies’ front court. Towns was able to attack into the paint and draw back-to-back fouls, one being on Jackson Jr., which was his third of the night and forced him to the bench.

The three-big lineup mixed things up for Memphis’ Head Coach Taylor Jenkins, as the Timberwolves were able to gain a little bit of space and build some of the elusive momentum I keep speaking about.

In the future, having all three bigs play productively in short stints together will be a tremendous weapon for Chris Finch and his staff to keep in their back pocket.

Shake Milton was able to provide his team with some incredible first-half mintues. Through his first ten mintues, Milton registered 10 points on 3-of-3 from the floor and 2-of-2 from deep. It's just the fourth time he has put up double digits this season. Milton’s shot-making was huge for the Wolves, who have been without Ant for the majority of the game so far.

As both teams trotted back to their respective locker rooms at halftime, the Timberwolves were up by just five points after a shaky end to the second quarter. The hometown crowd was energized, and the Grizzlies were feeding off that.

Minnesota’s beloved assistant coach Micah Nori told Bally Sports North’s Lea B. Olsen at halftime that the Wolves must treat Desmond Bane as the “Elf on the Self; they need to find him” on defense. Until now, Minnesota’s perimeter defenders have done a solid job on Bane (10 points, 4/9 FG). However, Edwards (right hip pointer) was ruled out during the break, so containing Bane and not letting him take over will be crucial to winning.

Right on cue, Bane came out of halftime and buried two triples. He had that look in his eyes like, “I’m about to take this thing over.” However, Troy Brown Jr., who filled in for Ant in Finch’s second-half starting lineup, had something to say about that.

TBJ canned three triples within the first three minutes of the third quarter, which led the Grizzlies to call time as the Timberwolves’ lead suddenly ballooned to 11.

In the moment, this felt like a tide-turning swing. Minnesota has been a tremendous third-quarter team lately, and its been stretches like TBJ’s that have been the reason why. Following Memphis’ timeout, Nickeil Alexander-Walker canned a triple, Grizzlies forward Vince Williams Jr. air-balled a three-ball, and KAT connected on a 9-foot floater.

Wolves had themselves a 16-point lead with 6:42 left in the third, which blossomed into a 19-point lead by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

Memphis had some momentum after a Xavier Tillman and-one with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth. Still, the deficit was 16, but in the first meeting between these two teams, we saw the Grizzlies put together a mini run late in the game to make things interesting. The Wolves were too good to drop that contest, and they were too good to drop tonight’s.

A masterful play between Mike Conley, Towns, and Gobert pushed Minnesota’s lead back up to 20 midway through the fourth to all but salt things away.

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

A Bench Masterclass

The Timberwolves lost Anthony Edwards (right hip pointer) with just over three minutes played in the opening quarter; the team was then searching for someone to pick up the slack left behind. On Wednesday night, Edwards was off his game against the San Antonio Spurs, but the fear factor and gravity that follows him when he is on the floor makes him a plus player.

Karl-Anthony Towns gave Minnesota a very efficient night with 24 points on 7-of-14 from the floor. However, he was subject to some early foul trouble, meaning Minnesota’s supporting cast had to do more heavy lifting.

Shake Milton set the tone early in the first half and was able to give his team a consistent scoring punch all game long, which was incredibly refreshing to see from a player who has been struggling to see anything find the bottom of the net.

Troy Brown Jr. was lights out in the second half, going 4-of-5 from deep. We’ve seen TBJ step up in the absence of Ant, and tonight was no exception.

“I just got to play my role, said Brown Jr. postgame. “Especially with the three-point shooting. Just trying to give space to the other guys in the first half. And in the second half, I know teams are going to cover us differently, so I get a lot of open shots, usually. I’m ready for it.”

Tonight was the first time we’ve seen what Minnesota’s bench can do when shots are falling, and confidence is oozing. For TBJ, this performance isn’t anything new, but for Milton, hopefully, this is a game that he can build off of moving forward.

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

MVP-Level Rudy Gobert

Tonight was just the latest installment in what has been an incredible start to the 2023-24 season for Rudy Gobert. Jim Petersen mentioned it during the broadcast a few times, and I could not agree with him more: the Stifle Tower is playing like an MVP and should be in the conversation if the Wolves keep winning.

In the locker room after the game, Gobert was asked about the mentality he is currently playing with.

“That’s my mentality every second that I’m on the court,” said Gobert. “Just be in the moment and focus on what’s in front of me. When I’m doing that, I can be the best Rudy that I can be, and I can really impact my team and impact the game in the most impactful way. Every night is a challenge; every night is an opportunity for us to get better, have some fun, and to win. That’s all I care about — winning. Make sure we do what we are supposed to do and get better every night.”

Gobert’s block totals were down last season. Some of that was due to him not being healthy, but you can also place the blame on the notoriety that follows Rudy. When he is lurking in the paint, players have been very reluctant to attempt shots against him, as they oftentimes pull the “Never Mind” and kick a potential layup opportunity out to one of their teammates on the perimeter.

However, this season, Friday night in particular, is different. The Stifle Tower was able to lock down the paint in a variety of different ways, including his impressive blocks all game long. When Gobert is playing at this high of a level, there should be no reason that his name isn’t in the MVP conversation.

He has been playing breathtaking basketball.

Nothing more to say.

Up Next

The Timberwolves continue their three-game road trip as they will hop on a plane tonight and head to New Orleans for a matchup against the 12-11 Pelicans, who lost last night by 44 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Semifinals of the In-Season Tournament, Monday night.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:10 PM CT, with streaming available on Bally Sports North and the Wolves App Radio.