The Memphis Grizzlies struggled out of the gate hitting just one of their first eight attempts from the field. Tayshaun Prince, who was terrific against the Wolves when these two teams met a week ago, was a big part of that slow start, going 1-for-5 from the field during that 1-for-8 run for Memphis. They rectified that and took a lead late in the first quarter. A Kevin Love corner three tied things at 20 apiece after the first twelve minutes.
Minnesota’s season-long achilles heel (the bench) checked in to start the second quarter. They began the quarter with Barea, Muhammad, Budinger, Cunningham and Turiaf. It was that unit and the energy from Muhammad & Turiaf that helped the Wolves go on a big run. Even more impressive is that the Grizzlies continued to play with their two best players: Mike Conley & Marc Gasol. Despite that, the Wolves’ bench outdueled the Grizz and took a double-digit lead.
Both teams put their full starting units in to finish the first half. The Grizzlies sparked a small run, but the Wolves scored the final four points of the half to take a 7-point lead, 48-41, into halftime.
Love led the Wolves’ first half attack with 15 points, 8 rebounds & 4 assists; while big man Marc Gasol led the way for the Grizz with 12 points.
The Wolves starters, particularly Ricky Rubio came out hot offensively. Rubio scored 6 quick points within the first minute and a half of the third quarter. Minnesota also stepped up their intensity defensively and quickly pushed their lead to double digits.
Ricky was especially impressive in the third quarter going 5-for-7 from the field after going 0-for-2 from the field in the first half. Rubio scored just 1 point in the first two quarters, but added another 13 in the third quarter alone. He also forced Mike Conley into two quick fouls midway through the quarter to give him four on the night and forced him to sit until the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately Rubio had to leave the court after falling underneath the basket, he came up limping and upon checking out of the game he went directly to the locker room with trainer Gregg Farnam. It was ultimately ruled a sprained ankle and Rubio jogged back to the bench early in the fourth quarter.
It was shortly after Conley was forced to sit with foul trouble that the Wolves extended their lead to the largest of the night; 66-52.
The Wolves did a little bit of everything offensively in the third quarter. They hit threes, scored inside, got out on the break for transition buckets and drew fouls to get opportunities at the line. After three quarters the Wolves led by 16; 77-61.
The Wolves began the fourth quarter with the same lineup that got them going offensively in the second quarter: Barea, Muhammad, Budinger, Cunningham & Turiaf.
The Grizzlies were able to cut it to single digits and it didn’t take long for Adelman to get Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin back into the game.
There was a moment early in the fourth quarter in which Kevin Love & James Johnson got tangled up underneath the basket. Love swung around and hit Johnson in the head with and elbow and Johnson reacted with a shove. It was ruled a flagrant one by Love and a technical by Johnson. It was on Johnson’s free throws that the Grizz cut the lead back to single digits. It easily could’ve served as a major turning point in the game for Memphis, but the Wolves weathered a small Memphis run. The Grizzlies got within 7 points, but that was as close as they’d get on the night.
They did so thanks to a number of factors: Love’s third career triple-double, Turiaf’s defense on Gasol, Turiaf’s slam dunks in the paint, Rubio’s aggressiveness on defense (4 steals), Rubio’s aggressiveness driving to the paint for lay-ins and transition buckets from Brewer & Martin.
All together, struggles from Mike Conley & Zach Randolph doomed the Memphis Grizzlies. When you couple that with being unable to stop Minnesota’s offensive onslaught and it was just a rough night for Memphis tonight.
I admit, I was pretty surprise with how the Wolves played and that they actually built a big lead and maintained it in the second half to walk away with a win against a team that shamed them a little over a week ago in Memphis.
The Wolves snapped a two-game losing streak and a six-game losing streak to the Memphis Grizzlies to move back to .500 on the season at 37-37. The Wolves will be back in action on Friday night vs. the Heat in Miami. Tipoff is set for 6:30pmCST.