Grizzles top Wolves
MEMPHIS — Caught without his team-issued stack of game notes and statistics handy, a man asked Memphis rookie coach Dave Joerger before Monday’s 109-92 NBA victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves just what the night’s opponent had scored in its past five first quarters.
He didn’t hesitate.
“Forty-one, 37, 33, 33 and 32,” Joerger said. “Now, I just went from top to bottom, not progressively.”
Either way, there’s no question the Wolves’ recent first quarters were on his mind. So his team went out and held the Wolves to 15 first-quarter points, after the Wolves had put up 41 on the Phoenix Suns.
Now, there’s also no question the Grizzlies aren’t the Suns, and they proved so again Monday.
Both the Suns and Grizzlies are fighting for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, so much so that a Sunday afternoon gathering of Memphis season-ticket holders turned into an unsuccessful cheering section for the Wolves during a home loss to Phoenix in which they blew a 22-point lead.
The Grizzlies are trying to get back to the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season the same way they got there the first three times, with defense.
On Saturday, they held the Indiana Pacers to 71 points in a home victory.
On Monday, the Grizzlies doubled up the Wolves in the first quarter alone, outscoring them 30-15 in 12 minutes on their way to a lead that grew to as many as 24 points by midway in the third quarter.
Point guard Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 23 points and center Marc Gasol added a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double on one hurting ankle and another hurting knee.
Kevin Love led the Wolves with 16 points and rookie Gorgui Dieng had his fourth double-double game in five NBA career starts with an 11-point, 17-rebound night.
The Wolves have allowed 100 or more points in 11 consecutive games. Until limiting Memphis to 109 points Monday, they had allowed high-scoring Dallas, Houston and Phoenix 122, 129 and 127 respectively in their past three games.
The Wolves have lost three consecutive games after winning seven of 10 before that.
They have 13 games remaining. Wolves coach Rick Adelman was asked Monday how he keeps his team from playing like its season is already over now that the playoffs are long gone.
“I just can’t believe that we would do that,” he said. “Yeah, we’re behind these other teams, but we have to improve as a team and improve as players. We have to go out and play as hard as we can, win as many games as we can. Our job is to finish this season off the most positive way we can.”