Memphis Grizzlies vs. Minnesota Timberwolves match preview

WHO: Memphis Grizzly (5-4, 3-1 at home) vs. Minnesota Timber Wolves (3-5, 1-0 away)

O: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: 7:00 p.m. CST

HOW TO WATCH / LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Ziaire Williams (Questionable, wrist), Dillon Brooks (Exit, hand), Killian Tillie (Exit, back)

MINNESOTA: D’Angelo Russell (Questionable, ankle), Leandro Bolmaro (Released, G-League), McKinley Wright IV (Released, G-League)

PROJECTED START CONFIGURATION:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

MINNESOTA: Patrick Beverley, Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns


The Memphis Grizzlies played a complete and utter misfire against the Washington Wizards on Friday night. It was one of those projections that you want to burn the game movie about – very little has gone well for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant struggled mightily. The team’s defense has been regularly abused. While the Wizards appear to have improved a lot this season, there is still not much to say about losing this way in a game that in theory should have been a lot more competitive.

Tonight’s game carries the same level of risk. For the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t as bad as their record, or their recent streak of bad luck (three double-digit losses in a row) suggests. They aren’t the deepest franchise in the world – they miss the underachiever D’Angelo Russell – and when Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns don’t dominate, Minnesota doesn’t stand a chance.

But a good part of the time, these two players are capable of domination. And the good opportunity they’ve been waiting for could be tonight, if the Grizzlies don’t defend better than Friday night.

Keys to tonight’s game with Wolves

Find new angles for Ja to eat

Photo by G Fiume / Getty Images

It’s a bit early to say the NBA has “figured out” how to slow third-year Ja Morant down. Memphis is playing Game 10 tonight – it’s hard to make such declarative statements one way or another about anything at this point. Still, it’s increasingly clear that there are ways to limit what Ja does best. First of all, you need a guard or wing that has the defensive chops to fight on screens and be able to limit the space that Morant creates in that way. From there, coming in and forcing decisions out of beat for the Grizzlies defense leads to bad decisions – and opposing teams get opportunities in transition.

Minnesota have a few players – Edwards and Patrick Beverley, to be precise – who could make Ja’s life difficult.

So how do you limit that? Allow others like Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton (or Kyle Anderson off the bench) to start more attacking sets. This does not mean that Ja is not the final decision maker of a pick and roll. This means that the way you get this look should be more varied – get the Timberwolves to react and turn in different ways before you get to that proven offensive initiation from Morant.

Have them work both on and off the ground to adapt to new ways of getting similar results.

Earn reserve minutes

Denver Nuggets vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Photo by Joe Murphy / NBAE via Getty Images

With Russell possibly out, it could be another night where Timberwolves’ Malik Beasley is without much backing on the Minnesota bench. Meanwhile, while the Grizzlies clearly miss Dillon Brooks in part because his absence means one of Desmond Bane or De’Anthony Melton has to start instead of being a key reserve, people like Ziaire Williams and Tyus Jones have recently been able to carry the load better than expected. Tyus Jones remains the elite as a turnover to help the man (his 2% turnover percentage by basketball-reference.com is easily the best in the NBA) but he makes three (50% ) better than he did for most of his NBA career.

Meanwhile, Ziaire Williams was one of the only bright spots in the Grizzlies’ loss to Washington. He’s pretty good in corner three and is adjusting well to his current role on the roster. If he can maintain that and Jones can continue to thrive, the Memphis Reserves should gain key bench minutes against the Timberwolves. And Minnesota just doesn’t have enough firepower to counter if that is the case.

The prediction

Russell would make a major difference if he played. He trained for the Timberwolves on Sunday, so it looks like his questionable status is legitimate. If he dresses up, the threat of his attack forces the Grizzlies to defend Minnesota in a different way than if he wasn’t able to play. Either way, Memphis’s biggest opponent at this point in his development is himself. If they move the ball around and execute late passes / create defensive turnovers, they can beat anyone in the NBA. If they don’t, they can lose to anyone. Such is life in a reconstruction.

You have to think that at home, where the role players are particularly successful, the Grizzlies keep the Wolves at bay and get a victory necessary to reach 6-4.

Memphis 111, Minnesota 107

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