Slumping Grizzlies face tall task in Minnesota
Trying to snap a six-game losing skid, the Memphis Grizzlies head into Target Center on Sunday aiming for their second win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on the season.
The two met in Memphis on Nov. 6 in a game the Grizzlies won scoring 137 points, a franchise-high dating back 12 years.
In the weeks since, a young Memphis roster has gone through highs-and-lows on both sides of the floor. Its offense produced 119 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, but gave up 121 for a fifth straight loss.
Then on Friday against the Utah Jazz, the Grizzlies mustered just 94 points.
Finding more consistent scoring contribution behind breakout rookie star Ja Morant is an issue for the Grizzlies. Morant is averaging 18.6 points per game, and second-year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. is behind at 15.1. Outside of the starting five, however, the averages drop precipitously.
One reserve from whom Memphis is waiting on more scoring production is guard Grayson Allen, who returned to the lineup from an ankle injury this week.
"Offensively, it's about knowing that he's a downhill player, being able to use that physicality, being able to get into the paint and score for us, and then continuing to trust his shot," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He shot the ball well in college. It's taken some time for him to get into a groove here, but hopefully over time he'll be able to knock down that [3-pointer] consistently."
As a team, Memphis is shooting 35.3 percent from 3-point range -- right in the middle of the NBA. Outside shooting proved critical to the Grizzlies' earlier win over the Timberwolves, led by Dillon Brooks' 5-of-7 in a 31-point effort.
Knowing where the scoring production will come from has not been of concern for Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have combined to put up more than 51 points per game.
An outstanding first month-and-a-half from Towns comes as no surprise. The fifth-year veteran is a one-time All-NBA selection and on a similar trajectory this season, averaging 26.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
This season has been something of a career resurgence for Wiggins, however. The 2014-15 Rookie of the Year is posting career-highs almost across the board: 25.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, with a 46.8 percent field goal average.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Wiggins credited his turnaround to smarter shot selection, and playing for coach Ryan Saunders.
"I went through a lot earlier in my career and everything, he was there to listen to me and help me out," Wiggins said. "To give me advice. So he got my trust and respect early.
Behind the duo of Towns and Wiggins, Teague has been a driving force of the Minnesota offense at 12.4 points and 7.6 assists per game. Rookie guard Jarrett Culver has also emerged recently, scoring in double-figures over seven of the Timberwolves' last eight games.
Culver contributed 10 points and five assists in a 113-101 defeat of San Antonio on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media
Updated November 30, 2019