Two seasons ago, the Grizzlies muscled the Timberwolves right out of the playoffs with their ability to dominate in rebounding. Wolves fans might still have nightmares of forward Brandon Clarke grabbing offensive board after offensive board and giving Memphis plenty of second-chance points.

That was one reason the Wolves swung the deal with Utah for Rudy Gobert in July of 2022; the center is one of the best rebounders in the league, and he would provide a steadying presence there. That was certainly true for the Wolves in their 120-95 Game 1 victory over Phoenix on Saturday when they nearly lapped Phoenix 52-28 on the glass.

But getting to this point hasn't been an easy process, nor did Gobert's arrival automatically cement them as a team that could control the glass.

"You always heard me say, you're only as good a rebounding team as your smalls' willingness to go rebound, both sides of the ball," coach Chris Finch said after Monday's practice. "That has to be the case."

So perhaps the most important rebounding statistics for the Wolves on Saturday were not the 16 boards Gobert had or the seven center Karl-Anthony Towns grabbed. Instead, the nine guard Anthony Edwards had along with six for forward Jaden McDaniels stood out more and helped the Wolves build such a big margin. For the Wolves to maintain that edge in the series, they will need McDaniels and Edwards to keep mixing it up.

"It's just another opportunity for us to get the ball and score," McDaniels said. "Coach be on me about it all the time. Crash if you're just sitting in the corner. Just go crash every time. … The more you crash, the more that [opposing] player gets tired, he has to worry about you and he can't have all his energy for offense."

The Wolves' mantra since trading for Gobert has been not to compromise on their size. They will seek to punish teams for playing smaller lineups against them and not play down to their competition. For Gobert's first season, the Wolves didn't quite do that well enough. They had the 26th-ranked defensive rebounding percentage (.703), meaning they grabbed that many of all available defensive rebounds. They weren't playing like a team with a lot of size. That changed this season, when they had the ninth-best defensive rebounding percentage. (They were 21st in offensive rebounding.)

"If we're going to have a big lineup, we have to play big, so we need to get those rebounds and stop them from having second-chance points," Towns said. "Getting ourselves extra chances on offense was a huge key in the win. We're playing a really great team with a lot of great players, so you've got to make it hard for them when they go small."

Attacking the offensive glass is actually one way the Wolves are hoping they can keep Phoenix from getting out in transition, which is where the Suns had an advantage on the Wolves in sweeping the teams' three-game series during the regular season.

They're hoping to make Phoenix commit more players to rebounding, which would reduce the Suns' ability to break out quickly down the floor.

"Offensive boards may slow them down or hinder their ability to get on a break," Towns said. "When you've got the players they've got who are some of the best scorers we've seen, you've got to do a lot of things to slow them down. I think that's one way we can utilize our size advantage to help us defensively and get some turnovers."

It took some time and effort for the Wolves to get to this point on the glass, but it seems like it can finally be an advantage for them instead of an Achilles' heel.

"Got to find ways to impose yourself," Finch said. "We've been a big team all year. That doesn't just mean two bigs in the paint, punishing people. You got to be physical … with your rebounding opportunities and with a lot of the lineups they'll put out there. We feel we have an advantage with our size."