The Minnesota Timberwolves finally built a lead too big to lose.
That their first victory of the season came against a weakened lineup mattered little after two stinging road losses to begin the year.
Zach LaVine scored 31 points and hit five 3-pointers, and the Timberwolves led by as many as 40 points in a 116-80 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.
Gorgui Dieng scored 17 points for the Timberwolves (1-2), who led by 17 points in the opener against Memphis and 18 against Sacramento before losing both games.
”More focus. Stop messing around,” LaVine said of the difference. ”We know what we did the last two games. Don’t let it happen again.”
Memphis coach David Fizdale decided to rest Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the front end of a back-to-back that finishes at home on Wednesday night against New Orleans. Tony Allen made his season debut for the Grizzlies after missing the first three games of the season with a right knee injury.
Conley and Gasol are both coming off surgeries, so the Grizzlies are playing it safe in the middle of a four-game in five-night stretch.
”We just thought it was best that tonight, you know, we rested them and then you load up and you try to get a win at home tomorrow,” Fizdale said.
Memphis shot just 36.5 percent and turned the ball over 22 times.
Rookie Kris Dunn had 10 points, six assists and five steals in his first career start after Ricky Rubio sprained his right elbow in their last game. Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points and Dieng shot 8 for 9 one day after signing a four-year, $64 million contract extension.
”When the ball moves and the spacing is good, we’re going to score,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Deyonta Davis led Memphis with 17 points.
The Timberwolves shot 55 percent for the game, including 60 percent from 3-point range (12 for 20) against a Memphis team missing the grit and toughness that gave the Wolves so many problems on opening night.
Zach Randolph played just 10 minutes after bullying the Wolves for 19 points and 11 boards in Game 1 and Vince Carter only played 15 minutes.
”I guess everything is a learning experience, but especially coming in here and being down at the margins that we had been, it doesn’t make any sense even with Marc and Mike not playing,” Grizzlies rookie Wade Baldwin said. ”Guys got to play better.”
Grizzlies: Allen had four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes. … Memphis hit 11 of 24 3-point attempts to erase that big deficit in the season opener, but hit just 4 of 24 from long range on Tuesday night.
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. … With Dunn starting for Rubio, it gave the Wolves four players in the starting lineup age 22 or younger. That’s the third time it has happened in franchise history.
The 39-year-old Carter played in his 1,278th game, tying him with A.C. Green for 25th on the NBA’s career list. He also surpassed 24,000 points with a runner in the lane in the third. He ranks 25th in league history for career scoring.
”I plan on using him all year in different ways,” Fizdale said.
JONES STEPS UP
One of the intriguing subplots entering the game was who would be elevated to No. 2 point guard behind Dunn. Thibodeau kept four point guards on the roster, including second-year man Tyus Jones and veteran John Lucas III, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago. Jones got the nod on Tuesday night and delivered a crisp performance.
The heady Minnesota native kept the ball moving with the second unit and helped the Wolves get rolling after a sluggish start by the first team. He finished with two points and six assists in 18 minutes.
Grizzlies: Memphis hosts New Orleans on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies swept the Pelicans last season 4-0.
Timberwolves: Minnesota hosts Denver on Thursday night. Towns will meet Nikola Jokic in a battle of two of the best sophomore big men in the league.
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