MEMPHIS – The NBA’s highest-scoring first-quarter team that had reached 60 points by halftime seven times already this season scored just 39 before intermission and also by 21 points scored a season low for the game in Saturday’s 93-71 defeat at Memphis.
So just what did the Grizzlies to do to the Timberwolves, other than the same thing they’ve been doing with grit and grind for the past six years?
That depends on who’s talking.
Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns attributed such a thumping primarily to his team’s lack of execution and concentration on a night when it again got outdone in a third quarter — 22-13, including a 14-0 Memphis run — that he mostly watched because of foul trouble.
“It’s more on us,” said Towns, who sent word to teammates to silence shower-room laughter/noise as he dressed solemnly at his locker room stall afterward.
Teammate Andrew Wiggins blamed missed shots he and his teammates don’t usually miss on a night when he went 2-for-11 from the field and scored just seven points after he had averaged 33 points in six games before that.
“We missed a lot of easy shots, and they slowed the game down a lot, too,” Wiggins said. “They play physical and we just didn’t play.”
Their coach, Tom Thibodeau, saw a lack of rebounding and determination as well as a Grizzlies team that has had a winning record and made the playoffs these past six years. They also now have held Dallas to 64 points and the Wolves to 71 points on consecutive nights.
“You’ve got to bring a toughness on the road,” Thibodeau said afterward. “I don’t think we did that, particularly with the guys they have. They’re a tough, physical team, and you’ve got to have the mind-set to deal with that. It’s going to be a physical game. It’s going to be a power game, and you have to be willing to get in there and play hard without fouling. We didn’t do that.”
When the Grizzlies hired David Fizdale last spring, the longtime Miami assistant coach vowed to update his new team’s smash-mouth style with some pace-and-space modernity. He has done both, and yet still some things never change.
Four nights after they made 15 three-pointers and beat the NBA-leading Clippers in Los Angeles, the Grizzlies on Saturday won for the fifth time in six games.
The Grizzlies shot just 38 percent Saturday, made two of 18 three-point attempts and still won handily after they outrebounded the Wolves 13-5 on the offensive backboards and won in second-chance points 15-6.
The Wolves also committed 19 turnovers as well as 25 fouls. Those fouls sent Memphis to the free-throw line for 38 attempts, 16 more than the Wolves shot.
“I just didn’t like the way we played from a discipline standpoint,” Thibodeau said. “The fouling crushed us. It’s hard to win like that.”
Playing the Grizzlies for the third time this regular season already, the Wolves returned Saturday to FedEx Forum, where their much-documented, third-quarter woes all started on opening night. This time, Memphis outscored 22-13 in a third quarter when Towns played just two minutes after he picked up his fourth foul in the quarter’s opening minute.
Meanwhile, Wiggins scored just one point after halftime after the Grizzlies used veteran defenders Tony Allen and Vince Carter to, in Fizdale’s words, “battle him, fight him, try to make everything impossible for him.”
“You can still play well without shooting well,” Thibodeau said, ticking off defense, rebounding and playmaking. “If you miss some shots, you can’t allow that to take away from the other things you do to help the team win.”