Andy G: Wolves at Memphis tonight (5:00 CST, My29 for TV; 830 WCCO for radio) where they’ll face a Grizzlies team 13 games over .500. The Wolves? They’re 11 games below. Some big changes going on in Graceland that put the Grizzlies’ lofty standing in question. ESPN’s NUMB#RS guru, John Hollinger, joined the front office. Guess who’s no longer walkin’ through that door? That’d be you, Rudy Gay. Memphis now has Tayshawn Prince, whose extended, post-Aughts-dynasty stint in Detroit was the NBA’s version of an indefinite Gitmo detentionI. Seriously, what took so long for Dumars to find Prince a suitable home for a quality vet? In any case, he’s on a fringe Kahntender in Memphis now. He’s not exactly lighting the world on fire (9.3/3.3/3.5 in last 4 games) but we know he can play and he’s a gap-filler between a quick and feisty backcourt and big and bruising frountcourt.
Enough beating around the bush: Do the Wolves stand a chance of winning this game?
Patrick J: The Wolves stand a chance, but it’ll be a tough-fought win if it’s gonna come out in the Wolves’ favor. The big thing, to me, is the Gasol-Pekovic matchup. The Wolves have been able to rely – and need to rely – on Pek as their one consistent scoring threat throughout this tough stretch. But tonight, Pek gets the Gasol treatment. That means an extra-strength dose of pain for most opposing centers. And their backcourt is great at defense too. Mike Conley and Tony “000G” Allen make the lives of their oppenents miserable on a nightly basis. So Rubio, Luke, Shved & co, will have their work cut out for them. (Eds. Note: Allen has an excellent Twitter account, found here.)
So this leads to the next issue (assuming you agree) – can the Wolves get enough punch from Gelabale and/or D. Williams tonight to give them a shot in case our usual first options struggle?
Andy G: I’ll give you the lawyerly [non] answer of, “It depends.” In this case it depends on how much is “enough.” Memphis has the league’s 20th ranked offense (and 2nd ranked defense), so if this is a game played in the high 70’s/low 80’s, then maybe a surprising, 17-point burst from THRILL will push this one in Minny’s favor. But if Memphis scores 95 or more, well… good luck. I’m kind of expecting a poor game from Rubio, just because he’s still recovering, the Wolves don’t have any floor spacers to challenge the Grizzlies’ GRIT & GRIND defensive philosophies and they might be jumping skip passing lanes left and right. I very much hope I’m wrong on that. Maybe Good J.J. will make an appearance? I don’t know. I’ll let you wrap this one up. What are you expecting?
Patrick J: Good J.J. make an appearance? Did you go to church this morning? I didn’t, but I still like that whether you get Good J.J. or Bad J.J. is akin to pure luck, and you’re gambling on blind faith if you expect him to tilt the balance on any given night (as he’s shown he can).
One thing with regard to D-Williams (and Dante Cunningham, since he’ll get a share of the PF minutes) is the perhaps one advantage the Wolves have tonight: that Z-Bo doesn’t like to/can’t close on shooters. D-Williams and Dante are fairly capable shooters. Can you count on Dante making 17-foot pick-n-pop jumpers all night? Usually. Can you count on Derrick to knock down treys on any given night? Wait – did I already ask if you went to church this morning? Because you alreaddy know the deal. But if they’re hitting, and if Zach R. is still a bit sluggish from a thuggish-ruggish Saturday night in Memphis and isn’t scoring aggressively, I think those guys will have to play well. *Crosses fingers*