Much as they did throughout last spring’s playoff series, Minnesota outplayed Memphis for three quarters Friday at Target Center.
Unlike in that series, the Timberwolves were actually able to close the door Friday.
Minnesota topped Memphis at Target Center for the second time in as many tries this season, downing the Grizzlies 111-100. The win moved Minnesota over .500 for the first time since Dec. 21.
The difference between Minnesota last spring and now may be as simple as Kyle Anderson playing for Memphis back then and the Timberwolves now.
He’s the stabilizing veteran force the Wolves need when things start to teeter. In the fourth quarter Friday, anytime Memphis started to hint at a comeback push, Anderson made a play to shut it down.
With fewer than two minutes to play, it was Anderson who picked Ja Morant’s pocket, then delivered a no-look pass to Jaden McDaniels for an easy layup in transition to extend Minnesota’s advantage to 14.
Anderson finished the night with 23 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals. That all came in 27 minutes on a night where he battled foul trouble early on. Memphis’ game plan early on seemed to be to sag off Anderson, and he responded by knocking down triples at the same rate at which he has been doing it all season.
Anderson finished the game 4 for 7 from deep.
“Just taking whatever they gave me,” he said in his postgame, on-court interview. “They started off the game letting me shooting the ball, and I shot it with confidence, knocked them down.”
Memphis scored just 69 points over the final three quarters. The Grizzlies — who’ve now lost five straight games — shot 41 percent from the field and 24 percent from 3-point range. They struggled to generate offense with any type of consistency. Especially on a night when they were without Steven Adams and Desmond Bane, the Grizzlies (31-18) seemed to sorely miss someone with Anderson’s versatility.
“He’s been playing at such a high level for us,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He’s so important.”
Minnesota, on the other hand, had one of its more fluid offensive efforts of the season, finishing with 31 assists on 44 made buckets. D’Angelo Russell got off to a hot start to spark the offense, while Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“Every time we moved the ball,” Finch said, “we got a good look.”