Web Editorial Associate
The Wolves took on the Memphis Grizzlies—a team that has given them some trouble this season—in a must-win game at Target Center on Monday night. Things didn’t get off to the start Minnesota wanted, but by the time the night was over the Wolves had earned a runaway victory over one of the league’s worst teams, setting up a Wednesday showdown with Denver in their final game of the season.
The Wolves struggled from the field in the first quarter, scoring only 20 points in the period. Luckily, the Grizzlies weren’t exactly on fire either—Memphis led 26-20 going into the second.
In the second quarter, the Wolves got an energy boost from Tyus Jones. His hustle on the defensive end seemed to wake the Wolves up, and they scored 36 points in the quarter to the Grizzlies’ 27. The Wolves had success with a small-ball lineup of Jones, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. The length and athleticism of the four guards and the rebounding ability of Towns had the Grizzlies struggling to keep up. Towns went 4-4 in the period and Minnesota took a 53-56 lead into the half.
The Wolves offense regressed in the third quarter, but they still outscored the Grizzlies 22-27 in the period. However, it was in the fourth quarter where the Wolves really took over. Rose brought a grit and toughness to the game that clearly showed why the Wolves believe he can be a difference-maker alongside Butler. Those two together create some serious problems for opposing offenses.
Coach Tom Thibodeau continued to experiment with smaller lineups in the fourth—at one point he played Teague, Crawford, Butler, and Rose alongside Towns. Butler and Rose’s athleticism (and Wiggins’ length, when he’s a part of these groups) gives the Wolves some seriously interesting options. Keep an eye out for these four-guard lineups as a wrinkle the Wolves might break out more in the future.
Towns and Teague both had excellent fourth quarters as well, with Towns coming up with several highlight dunks, and Teague exhibiting his elite ability to control the pace and flow of the game. The Wolves shut down the Memphis offense, outscoring the Grizzlies 19-27 in the quarter to secure the victory.
San Antonio and Denver both won their games, so the Wolves did not clinch a playoff spot tonight, but they still control their own destiny. A win on Wednesday gets them in. It’ll be a photo finish in the West, so stay tuned.
Highlight of the night:
With 10:07 left in the fourth, Rose crossed over and went behind the back to a cutting Towns for a sweet layup. The dunks get all the press, but this play was awesome. Towns and Rose both have a great touch around the rim, and it’s a joy to watch.
Great dish from Rose to a cutting Towns. pic.twitter.com/a1rj9Yprfl
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) April 10, 2018
-The Wolves outrebounded the Grizzlies 34 to 25, including 18 offensive rebounds (and 18 total rebounds from Towns).
-Towns notched his 67th double-double of the season. He has more double-doubles than anyone in the NBA since Dwight Howard in 2007-08.
-Butler took eleven free throws, a game high, and made nine of them.
Player of the game:
Teague was excellent tonight, putting defenders to sleep with his dribble moves, then blowing by them for floaters and layups, or finding his teammates for easy buckets.
He finished with a final line of 24 points on 47.4-percent shooting, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals.
Teague’s ability to keep the game on a string and make good reads on offense have helped the Wolves immensely down the stretch, and his willingness to do the little things that matter in games makes all the difference.
The Wolves take on the Nuggets on Wednesday at Target Center in what should be an exciting battle for playoff position.