Timberwolves settle for split in Memphis after lifeless Game 2 showing
The game had the distinct look of a No. 2 seed out-classing a No. 7
Malik Beasley spoke Monday about Minnesota aiming to get a second road win in Game 2 on Tuesday so it wouldn’t have to return to Memphis after potentially sweeping the Grizzlies.
That was the type of confidence Minnesota carried into Tuesday after winning Game 1 in such convincing fashion over the weekend. After a regular season split in which Minnesota gave a game away late, it was easy for the Wolves to convince themselves they were in fact the better team in this matchup and could impose their will on a nightly basis.
Tuesday’s 124-96 defeat was a major reality check.
The Grizzlies controlled the pace and the terms under which Game 2 would be competed. Memphis was faster, more physical and far more in control of its play. The Grizzlies generated good shots every time down the floor. Minnesota tried to see how many times someone could dribble before heaving up a highly-contested look that stemmed from zero rhythm or flow.
The game had the distinct look of a No. 2 seed out-classing a No. 7.
Memphis’ defensive adjustments handcuffed Minnesota offensively. Steven Adams still started after struggling mightily in Game 1, but played just three minutes and never re-entered after picking up two quick fouls.
The first quarter Tuesday was a foul fest that featured 33 free-throws between the two teams over the opening 12 minutes. That didn’t allow anyone to find any feel for the game, and left a number of players in early foul trouble.
In the end, that may have been Memphis’ saving grace. Because the Grizzlies had to dip deep into their bench, which meant inserting Xavier Tillman — the team’s fifth big man. He proved to be a capable stopper of Karl-Anthony Towns thanks to his foot speed and physicality. The Grizzlies successfully switched everything, which left Minnesota to figure out who was going to take the contested jumper each possession.
Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 20 points, but you’d be hard pressed to single out a guy who actually played well. Towns battled foul trouble all night, picking up his third on a kickout foul on a jump shot in the second quarter, while D’Angelo Russell again struggled to get anything going offensively.
On the other end, Minnesota had no answer for Morant, who has gotten to the rim with ease on every possession through two games. But on Tuesday, he elected to utilize his teammates more often. He finished with 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds as the driving force behind the Grizzlies’ success.
Minnesota exits Memphis with the split it likely desired upon its arrival in Tennessee ahead of Game 3 Thursday at Target Center, but it heads back home void of any momentum.
Now everyone else will be left to determine whether Game 1 or Game 2 was closer to the reality of this matchup. Did Minnesota fail to show up Tuesday, or were the Wolves just exposed?