Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, the Memphis Grizzlies look to solidify playoff positioning and pull out of a slump when they travel to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Memphis (32-32) suffered its fourth loss in its last five contests Monday, falling in New York, 118-104. Ja Morant, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer on the season at 19.1 points per game, finished with eight points Monday on 2-of-14 shooting from the floor before he was ejected in the fourth quarter.
Morant’s ejection came amid a flurry of technical fouls assessed to the Grizzlies in the final 1:02, with the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins each receiving two, and Dillon Brooks being assessed one.
Memphis rallied from down as many as 17 points to cut the deficit to five in the final period, before the barrage of technicals sealed the loss.
The late-game unraveling aside, Morant’s scoring woes on Monday underscored what was Memphis’ fifth consecutive game scoring below its 113.1-point per game average.
The Grizzlies head into their final eight games of the regular season a half-game behind Golden State for No. 8 in the Western Conference through Monday’s competition. The difference between eighth and ninth is the difference in needing just one win or two in the play-in tournament to advance to the playoffs.
Wednesday’s trip to Minnesota starts the final stretch with three consecutive road games for the Grizzlies.
“Take the positives out of this game and go on to this next road trip. It’s a big road trip,” Brooks said in his postgame press conference following his team-high 25 points on Monday. “All these games are big, we’ve got to realize that.
“Our intensity, our attention to everything has got be heightened,” he added. “We’ve got to be ready every game single, from 1-to-12, even the 17th man on our bench has got to be locked in and ready to go, ’cause you never know what can be the little thing that changes the game.”
The game against Minnesota (20-45) is the first of six matchups for Memphis against teams under .500 to close out the regular season. The Grizzlies seek a season sweep, having won matchups on Jan. 13 and April 2.
The Timberwolves’ season-best four-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 140-136, overtime loss to New Orleans. Anthony Edwards continued his push for 2020-21 Rookie of the Year with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Edwards is averaging 21.3 points per game over his last 10, and is up to 18.5 points per game for the season.
Despite the loss, D’Angelo Russell — who recorded 17 points and 11 assists on Saturday — said he saw positives.
“Earlier in the season, the way we were losing, we weren’t progressing from our losses,” Russell said in his postgame press conference. “We were just kind of running in quicksand with it, showing up, doing the same thing. I think we’re losing with the right formula.”
Since Russell returned on April 5 from arthroscopic knee surgery, the Timberwolves are 8-7. He missed the second matchup with Memphis this season, but scored 25 points in the first meeting.
–Field Level Media