Timberwolves-Grizzlies Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies are undermanned and have been especially

bad at home lately, but based on their recent meetings with the

Minnesota Timberwolves, there may be no team they’re more happy to

host.

Unfortunately for Memphis, Kevin Love won’t be sitting this one

out.

More than half of the Grizzlies’ 11 straight wins against the

Timberwolves have come with Love on the sidelines, but they’ll have

to figure out a way to contain Minnesota’s star on Sunday fresh off

one of the best games of his career.

Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have missed time, Quincy Pondexter

may be out for the season and Marc Gasol’s timetable for returning

from an MCL sprain is unclear, so Memphis (10-12) hardly resembles

the group that played in the Western Conference finals less than

seven months ago.

The Grizzlies have lost seven of 10, with Friday’s 104-98 defeat

in New Orleans their third straight loss in which they allowed an

opponent to shoot 50 percent or better.

Memphis led by nine late in the second quarter before the

Pelicans went on a 45-17 run over the next 17 minutes.

“We just couldn’t score, then they just hit their shots,”

Randolph said.

Randolph and Memphis haven’t had a tough time slowing down the

Timberwolves (11-12) in recent seasons, winning the last 11

meetings while holding Minnesota to just 85.8 points per game.

But the Timberwolves didn’t have Love for six of those,

including all three in last season’s series, and that can mean

quite a bit against Minnesota. Love had a season-high 42 points and

14 rebounds on Friday, though the Timberwolves blew a nine-point

fourth-quarter lead in a 117-110 loss to San Antonio.

That didn’t keep Spurs coach Gregg Popovich from being

impressed.

”He is a great player,” Popovich said. ”When you can play

inside and outside the way he does, he is a tough cover. … I

thought we made some really fundamental errors in guarding him,

but, be that as it may, he is a monster.”

Love has missed four of the Timberwolves’ last five games in

Memphis, and Minnesota has dropped eight straight in FedEx Forum

since a 94-87 win Jan. 6, 2009 – Love’s rookie season.

Love hit 8 of 9 from 3-point range against the Spurs, but the

Timberwolves’ shooting has mostly been cold all month. Minnesota is

shooting 40.2 percent from the field in December, by far the worst

in the West.

Love has taken 137 3s – easily the most of any non-guard in the

league – and with him spending a lot of time on the perimeter, the

Timberwolves have struggled inside. Minnesota has been outscored in

the paint by an average of 14.5 points in its last eight games.

That should be good news for Memphis, which has outscored

opponents by an average of 8.7 points in the lane this month

despite the absence of Gasol.

The Grizzlies, however, haven’t exactly been efficient –

particularly at home. Memphis has lost seven of nine at FedEx Forum

and is shooting just 39.5 percent there in its last four games.

Perhaps no player on either team has struggled more with his

shot than Ricky Rubio, but the Timberwolves’ point guard has shown

some signs of turning it around the last few games.

Averaging 8.4 points and shooting just 36.0 percent through Dec.

7, Rubio has averaged 17.0 points and shot 44.1 percent to go along

with 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in his last three.

Minnesota is 8-2 if Rubio scores 12 points or more.