Slumping Timberwolves open road trip at Memphis

NBA

The Minnesota Timberwolves will try to end a four-game losing skid when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Minnesota is opening a four-game road swing with its visit to Memphis, coming on the heels of a winless homestand. The Timberwolves failed to score 100 points in three of their four losses during the unsuccessful stretch in Minneapolis, including a season-low in Friday’s 104-84 setback to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s tough right now because we’re struggling,” Anthony Edwards said. “We’re playing (well) sometimes. We have spurts of playing good, then we play bad and don’t pick it up.”

Minnesota started on Friday with a positive spurt, building a 20-point lead in the second quarter. The Timberwolves were outscored in the second half, 57-27.

Scoring woes are reflective of Minnesota’s 32.1 percent shooting from 3-point range, which ranks 26th in the NBA, and 40.9 percent shooting from the floor in total. That’s next-to-worst in the league.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said in his postgame press conference Friday that “guys … trying to do everything by themselves” plagued the team’s offense. Through the first eight games of 2021-22, Minnesota’s assists per game are down from 25.6 last season to 22.9.

Memphis, meanwhile, comes into Monday’s opener of a three-game homestand sixth in the NBA with 24.9 assists per game.

The Grizzlies experienced their own offensive struggles last time out, however, shooting a dismal 6 of 31 from 3-point range and 35.4 percent from the floor overall in a 115-87 loss at Washington on Friday.

Memphis’ offensive woes were compounded on defense, where Washington successfully attacked the rim. Through nine outings, the Grizzlies are allowing 113.3 points per game, second most in the NBA.

“We all have to understand that urgency we’ve got to have (if) our offense isn’t there, our defense has to be there,” said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins.

Monday’s matchup features two of the league’s breakout young stars in Minnesota’s 2020-21 All-Rookie selection Edwards and Memphis’ 2019-20 Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. Morant leads the Grizzlies with averages of 25.2 points and 7.1 assists per game through the first nine.

“Ja’s spirit is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s just infectious to his teammates, to his staff,” Jenkins said. “He’s got a big responsibility on his shoulders … but he still goes out and doesn’t put any extra pressure on himself outside of just playing to the great abilities he already has.”

Edwards is averaging 23.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists, setting the pace alongside veteran forward Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns leads the Timberwolves with 23.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Minnesota has been without guard D’Angelo Russell the last two games due to an ankle injury that cut his appearance short in a Nov. 1 loss to Orlando. He remains questionable.

Memphis is playing without Dillon Brooks, its second-leading scorer a season ago at 17.2 points per game. He is recovering from a broken hand and has yet to make his 2021-22 debut.

–Field Level Media

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