Karl-Anthony Towns returns from a two-game suspension to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday against the host Memphis Grizzlies.
Minnesota (4-2) plays its third road game in its last four outings, and fifth of seven to open the campaign. Its undefeated start ended a week ago in a 117-95 loss at Philadelphia, noteworthy for Towns’ scuffle with Joel Embiid which netted each player a two-game ban.
The absence of Towns, a two-time All-Star, loomed Monday in a 134-106 loss to Milwaukee. Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led a 62-38 points-in-the-paint advantage and 57-47 edge in rebounding for the Bucks.
The Timberwolves regain their star post presence in time to face a struggling Memphis side.
The Grizzlies (1-5) dropped their third straight on Monday, falling 107-100 at home to Houston, with second-year post player Jaren Jackson Jr. sidelined. Jackson, whose status for Wednesday is uncertain due to a right knee injury, is averaging 13.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game through his first five games.
Rookie Brandon Clarke made his first career start Monday in Jackson’s place, despite dealing with his own back injury. He blocked four shots in the loss.
Memphis loses some size in the starting rotation going with the 6-foot-8 Clarke in lieu of 6-foot-11 Jackson, a potential factor with Towns back in Minnesota’s lineup on Wednesday.
Clarke is one of two first-year Grizzlies selected in the first round of June’s draft. The other, guard Ja Morant, continued his hot start with a 23-point, six-assist showing against Houston.
“(Teammates) just put me in the right positions, whether they were setting a screen, being able to knock down shots, making their man just focus in on them, it opens up driving lanes for me,” Morant said in his postgame press conference following Monday’s contest. “Most of that credit goes to them.”
Morant leads the Grizzlies in both points and assists through six games, averaging 19.5 and 5.5. His backcourt mate, third-year guard Dillon Brooks, comes in third among all Grizzlies scorers at 12.5 per game.
Giving up points has been an issue for both sides with each team ranking in the bottom quarter of the league in scoring defense. Memphis is allowing 117.3 per game and Minnesota gives up an average of 115.7.
Much of the Grizzlies’ defensive effort will be keyed on veteran wing Andrew Wiggins, coming off a 25-point performance against the Bucks. That matched his season-high, coming off the heels of a season-best six-assist effort in a 131-109 win at Washington on Saturday.
Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders told the Star Tribune that Wiggins has flourished early in the season as a result of attacking the rim off the dribble more aggressively than previously in his six-season career.
“It’s also a credit to a lot of people involved, doing the research, and the way the information is being conveyed to these guys,” he said of Wiggins’ improved play.
His 21.2-point per game average thus far is his highest output since averaging 23.6 in 2016-17. He’s on a very early pace to average a career-best for rebounding at 5.2 per game, and field-goal shooting at 48.6 percent.
–Field Level Media
Copyright © 2019
TTWN Media Networks LLC