NBA Playoffs Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves

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Round one of the 2022 NBA Playoffs offers an exciting matchup between the second seed Memphis Grizzlies and the seventh seed Minnesota Timberwolves.  The Grizzlies look to prove their second-best record in the NBA was no fluke and are serious contenders to win a Championship. The Timberwolves are also demanding respect after a dominant second half of the season.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves

The Regular Season

The Grizzlies had a terrific season racking up the second-best record in the NBA at 56-26.  This was a major step up for the team with an 18-win improvement over last season (albeit with 10 extra games).  This team blossomed over the course of the year into a dominant team feared by everyone in the league.  Their expectations for these playoffs are high as they look to grow from their first-round loss in the NBA Playoffs to the Jazz last year.
Minnesota also made a huge step forward this year doubling their 23 wins season from the year before at 46-36.  They were particularly impressive in the second half of the season going 30-16 to finish the year.  The Wolves showed some impressive grit in the play-in game as well.  They trailed the Clippers by 10 points and were just nine minutes away from losing that game before making the emphatic comeback.  The Timberwolves’ momentum coming into this series has their fanbase feeling optimistic about the chances in the postseason.

Guards

The Grizzlies’ 1-2-3 punch of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Tyus Jones is in my opinion, the best in the NBA. Fans from Dallas and Phoenix may push back on that statement. Ja Morant is a generational franchise talent and viewed by many as a future league MVP. His ability to create and make his own clutch time shots could prove invaluable in the playoffs. There is no rest for opponents either when Morant is resting because Bane and Jones are both deadly dangerous in their right.

The Timberwolves counter with D’Angelo Russell, Patrick Beverly, and Jaylen Nowell. This is an above-average trio that is good enough to win or at least be competitive most nights. But when you stack these two combinations sides by side, it is a clear advantage for Memphis.

Advantage: Memphis Grizzlies

Forwards

Anthony Edwards is hailed by many as an All-Star talent and on good nights, he can be outright dominant.  He is still young however and prone to streaky play. Jarred Vanderbilt is a defensive force on the glass and will be a handful in this series. The forward position may be the Wolves’ biggest strength which isn’t actually good news.

The problem for Minnesota is the Grizzlies are equally strong at the forward position countering with Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson. Edwards gets a slight nod over Brooks, but Jaren Jackson has a clear advantage over Vanderbilt.  Jackson is a serious defensive player of the year candidate and is a nightmare matchup for any team.

Advantage: Even

Centers

Karl-Anthony Towns is of course the key player at center in this series. He played a terrible game against the Clippers fouling out in just 24 minutes on 11 points.  He was guilty of some bad decisions being overly aggressive in situations where it simply was not necessary.  Towns has to be smarter and win his matchups or the Timberwolves do not have a chance in this series.

Steve Adams is a quality center who averaged 10.0 rebounds a game this season. He is known for his smart play and tremendous physical strength. However, he is not nearly the same scoring threat that Towns is on the opposite end.

Advantage: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Playoffs Bench Depth

This is where the Grizzlies shine with an embarrassment of riches coming off the bench. No other team in the league can roll matchup combinations like the Grizzlies. This was epitomized by their 20-5 record for the season when their best player, Ja Morant, was out of the lineup. This team is so deep that if you took all five starters off the roster, I suggest they would still be a playoff team.  That lineup would include Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, John Konchar, Kyle Anderson, and Brandon Clarke. This depth affords coach Taylor Jenkins the luxury to create favourable matchups depending on the game situation.  In a tight 7 game series, this is a huge advantage.

The Timberwolves have a fairly sharp dropoff in production once they get past their starting five. They have a couple of nice young players like Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels.  Naz Reid played well after Towns fouled out in their last game.  But overall this talent gap coming off the bench is likely to be the biggest difference in the series.

Advantage: Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Playoffs Coaching and Intangibles

Last year the Grizzlies made it into the playoffs from the 9th seed only to be ousted in 5 games by the first place Jazz.  It is an understatement to say they have grown tremendously in just one year. They will not be content with just beating Minnesota this season. The experience gained from just those five games last year should prove valuable through the course of this series and the rest of the playoffs.

Taylor Jenkins has the Grizzlies playing at peak performance and is getting maximum effort from his players. They gelled this year as a team and they genuinely seem to like each other. Their youthful enthusiasm seems contagious and keeps the crowd actively engaged.

The Timberwolves remind me a lot of the Grizzlies last year. They are a tremendously talented young team that is still prone to making costly mistakes. They seemed a little too exuberant after their victory over the Clippers for my liking. It was as if they have accomplished all their goals for the season by simply making the playoffs. The pace, talent and depth of their next opponent will prove a much bigger test than what they faced against the Clippers.

Advantage: Memphis Grizzlies

 

NBA Playoff Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies in six games

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