The last time these two teams met, the Grizzlies were without their starting center Marc Gasol (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year). Tonight, Gasol was back for the Grizzlies, but the Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic. Pek's presence in the paint has REALLY been missed these past couple games, but the Wolves have found ways to win and ways to execute on offense.
Minnesota fell behind by as many as sixteen points, but a great third quarter rally led by Kevin Love & Ricky Rubio reduced the gap and gave the Wolves a one-point lead after 36 minutes.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, things fell apart in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 12-7 in the final four and a half minutes which included a Tayshaun Prince three-point dagger with 59 seconds to play to put the Grizzlies up by six points.
After an incredible fourth quarter, Ricky Rubio came out between quarters and didn't return to the floor. Ricky didn't score in the third quarter, but he did contribute 6 of his 8 assists and some great defense on Michael Conley & Nick Calathes. Rick Adelman decided to go with J.J. Barea (who played the entire final quarter)--much to the chagrin of the Minnesota faithful. J.J. did hit consecutive three-pointers about four minutes into the fourth quarter, but beyond that, the Wolves didn't get a whole lot from him that would warrant Ricky sitting the entire final quarter. Adelman said after the game that Barea was 'getting them into things' and gave the Wolves the 'best chance to win' Ultimately going with J.J. for his O over Ricky's D & playmaking. The last thing I want to see is Barea on the floor jacking up ill-advised three-pointers when the Wolves are trying to stay with the Grizzlies down the stretch.
Minnesota's comeback fell short as they fell to pieces in the final minutes to allow Zach Randolph & Tayshaun Prince to beat them for their 23rd loss of the season. The Wolves had a chance to move two games over .500 and beat a Grizzlies team that was just 1.5 games ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
With no Pek, Ronny Turiaf got the start at center and Gorgui Dieng saw a big bump in minutes. Turiaf finished with 7 points & 10 rebounds while Dieng brought some serious hustle & energy off the bench. He finished scoreless, but added 3 rebounds & 2 blocks in 13 minutes off the bench. Dante Cunningham played 18 minutes off the bench, paired mainly with Love at center. Dante tied a season-high with 12 points (for the second-straight game) & 7 rebounds. The Wolves will need this trio to continue to play some great basketball in Pek's absence. That means energy, hustle, rebounding, defense and the occasional bucket.
Tonight's box score...
Ronny Turiaf played 28 minutes as the starting center tied a season-high with 10 rebounds, which included a new season-high 8 defensive rebounds.
It's obvious that the Wolves were the best with Love on the court. He played 37 minutes, which is 6 less than he played vs. the Pelicans on Wednesday. A big part of that is Minnesota having another game tomorrow night in Atlanta where Love will match up with fellow All-Star (and former Jazz-man) Paul Millsap. Love played some solid defense on Zach Randolph (once again) excluding the last couple minutes where there was simply no stopping Z-Bo. The biggest concern is Kevin Love's ankle. Love landed awkwardly in the first half and sprained his ankle. He walked it off and didn't come out of the game, however for the remainder of the game we saw him grimace and limp quite a bit. Local media said he limped rather noticeably out of the locker room following tonight's loss.
The Wolves are in Atlanta tomorrow night, that game will tip at 6:30pmCST.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!