The success of the Memphis Grizzlies this season hinges quite a bit on the play of their big men: Zach Randolph & Marc Gasol.
They both got going early taking advantage of their mismatches defensively against Thaddeus Young & Nikola Pekovic.
We saw in the Wolves' last preseason game (vs. the Chicago Bulls) what a pair of big men could do against the Wolves. The Grizzlies knew going in that their offense would run through their big men. Unfortunately the Wolves were ultimately unable to slow them down--hence the reason the Grizz kept going to them in the paint.
Randolph was a beast, finishing with 25pts, 13reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk, 5tos, 3fls, 12-16 FG, 1-1 FT in 35 minutes. Amazingly he was able to finish with 25 points and shot just one free throw! Marc Gasol was even more impressive. He scored a game-high 32pts also adding 9reb, 3ast, 2stls, 2blks, 3tos, 1fl, 12-17 FG, 8-10 FT in 37 minutes.
The Grizzlies have a "Big Three" of their own with Z-Bo, Gasol and Michael Conley. Conley had a nice game himself: 16pts, 1reb, 6ast, 1stl, 1to, 3fls, 7-14 FG, 1-4 3PT, 1-3 FT in 34 minutes.
Between the Grizzlies' "Big Three", they shot 65.9% from the field (31-for-47). The rest of the Grizzlies shot just 34.2% from the field (12-for-35).
The Wolves were more balanced offensively. They got GREAT production from their bench. Mo Williams led the second unit with 18pts off the bench to go with 4ast, 1stl, 3tos, 3fls, 6-9 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT in 26 minutes. Shabazz Muhammad was another key reserve off the bench, also scoring in double figures. Muhammad finished with 13pts on 5-10 FG to go along with 7reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1to, 1fl, 1-2 3PT, 2-4 FT in 23 minutes.
The Wolves were without their starting shooting guard, Kevin Martin. He sat this one out with a sore ankle. In his place, the Wolves started Corey Brewer. He joined Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nikola Pekovic in the starting lineup.
The Wolves definitely could've used Martin tonight, though in his place, guys like Muhammad, Budinger and Williams saw extra time and made the most of it.
Nikola Pekovic struggled mightily going against Marc Gasol--on both sides of the ball. He shot just 2-for-9 from the field and finished with 5pts, 8reb, 1ast, 1blk, 3tos, 2fls, 1-2 FT in 29 minutes. Pekovic definitely got off to a slow start in the preseason and it seems as though that has carried over to the regular season. The Wolves NEED his low-post scoring and rebounding this season. Here's hoping he figures things out sooner, rather than later.
Ricky Rubio had a decent game, however he really struggled with his ball control. Ricky finished with 12pts on 5-12 FG & 2-3 FT along with 6reb, 7ast and 1stl. However, he also committed four personal fouls and turned the ball over 7 (of Minnesota's 23) times. Rubio shouldn't turn the ball over that many times in four games, let alone one!
It was Minnesota's sloppiness that often killed their rhythm. It was often times a lazy pass or trying to get to fancy with the ball that led to a Wolves turnover. If Minnesota happened to be on a little run at that time, that quickly brought their momentum to a halt.
Most impressive for the Wolves? The play from Thaddeus Young. Young was stellar offensively finishing with a team-high 26pts to go along with 4reb, 4ast, 2stls, 1to, 2fls, 10-18 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT in 34 minutes. He struggled some against the much stronger Zach Randolph, however, like Randolph using his strength--Young took advantage of his quickness and range on the other end and found a lot of easy buckets against the defensively-inept Randolph.
The Wolves did a lot of great thing tonight, however there are certainly aspects that need plenty of work. Taking better care of the basketball should be one major point of emphasis for the Wolves moving forward. Considering they turned the ball over 23 times and were still in a game against a team that should be in the thick of the race for a lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs this year--is good news. Getting Kevin Martin back and Nikola Pekovic going would be a massive help, too.
The Wolves have a VERY quick turnaround. They'll face the Detroit Pistons tomorrow (Thursday) night at the Target Center in their home opener. The Pistons also play on Wednesday night (as I write this they're battling the Denver Nuggets in a close contest midway through the third quarter). Tipoff for Thursday's game is 7pmCST.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!