• After facing a Clippers team that has fallen from grace after a six-year run, the Wolves will take on the Memphis Grizzlies who are experiencing a similar change.

    The Grizz are currently on a seven-year playoff run, but barring a significant turnaround it looks unlikely they’ll make it eight. Having lost 11 games in a row the team sits at 7-15. They fired Head Coach David Fizdale just last week which turned heads around the league. Fizdale is one of the prime young head coaches in the NBA.

    It seemed he got caught on the wrong end of a decision the Grizzlies front office felt they had to make. Reports surfaced that star Marc Gasol and Fizdale didn’t get along and Marc wanted him out. Naturally, after the fact, Gasol denied any involvement and it’s doubtful we’ll ever get the full story.

    There’s also turmoil in the ownership group. Minority owners are trying to push out the majority owner which has major implications for the future (location?) of the franchise. That business likely isn’t going to be resolved until 2018.

    It’s an unfortunate turn of events for a franchise that was among one of the toughest teams during the last decade. Marc Gasol has been the man in the middle throughout this tenure, with Mike Conley running the point. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen were huge pieces in their run as well, but moved on to new teams this offseason.

    This decline is not necessarily as sharp or shocking though for those who have been paying attention. This roster has been deteriorating for a couple of years now. They key pieces in Gasol and Conley are getting older and nagging injuries crop up more often, but the have remained extremely productive.

    Unfortunately it’s been their supporting cast that has been the biggest problem. Relying on 35 year-old Randolph, 35 year-old Allen and 40 year old Vince Carter to carry your bench was risky enough. Chandler Parsons has been an utter disaster since signing with the team thanks to injuries.

    With most of the team’s salary tied to Gasol, Conley and Parsons, it made it tough for the Grizzlies to improve their bench, or to retain their better reserves. Basically any injury to Gasol or Conley would spell doom for the team and unfortunately Conley went down 10 games ago, or one game into their current losing streak.

    The Grizzlies aren’t a good offensive team. Their 3-point shooting ranks 28th in the league at 33.8 percent. Their overall field goal percentage ranks 22nd in the league at 44.6 percent. They play at the slowest pace in the NBA. Their goal is to out-defend teams, and luckily they still preform well in that regard.

    The Wolves just need to make sure they get out on the 3-point shooters and not give Memphis an opportunity to generate easy offense. If they can keep this offensively challenged Grizzlies down, they should be able to come out on top.

    Key Matchups:

    – Tyreke Evans vs. Jimmy Butler

    – Marc Gasol vs. Karl-Anthony Towns

    It’s wonderful to see Evans make a triumph return to relevance, even if it’s only temporary. Evans does look every bit as good as one could expect for a player with basically no knees. After injuries derailed what looked like a promising career for Tyreke, he’s found his grove once again in Memphis.

    As the team’s second leading scorer at 17.9 points per game, he’s relied on for major contributions especially with Conley out. His field goal and 3-point percentages currently rank as a career-high at 48.5 and 42.7 percent respectively. The 3-point shot in particular is intriguing as that was always a weak part of his game.

    This year he’s making nearly two per game though and is proving to be a real threat from out there. With his explosion gone, he’s needed to become a better perimeter shooter to keep defenses honest, which creates a new way for him to get into the lane, his bread and butter.

    Butler will likely be focusing in on him defensively and look to slow down their second best player.

    Towns, and likely Gibson at times, will have the treat of stopping the Grizzlies best player in Marc Gasol. Recently Towns has struggled against the physical, interior bigs. Gasol is more of an elbow player, which could play into Towns’ favor.

    It’s unlike a player Towns had to face this season and it will be interesting to see how he responds.

    Projected Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C


    Tyreke Evans – PG

    Ben McLemore – SG

    Dillon Brooks – SF

    JaMychal Green – PF

    Marc Gasol – C


    Nemanja Bjelica (foot) – OUT

    Justin Patton (foot) – ASSIGNED TO G-LEAGUE

    Mike Conley (Achilles) – OUT

    Chandler Parsons (knee) – QUESTIONABLE

    Wayne Selden (quad) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North

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