I’ll just get this out of the way. The only reason I tune in to watching the Grizzlies, even when they don’t play the Wolves, is solely because of Zach Randolph. I’m not going to say he’s my favorite player but he very well could be my favorite player. Don’t ask for reasoning, he just is.
So when I get to watch as Z-Bo and Kevin Love, another favorite of mine, battle head-to-head, I’m always more than intrigued. And I almost love nothing more when the two are pulling their teams on their backs to the finish line. What I don’t like, though, is seeing Randolph and the Grizzlies prevail. In Minnesota, albeit.
Randolph and the Grizzlies played three great quarters, including the deciding fourth, to take one from the Wolves at home. Randolph finished the game with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
It wasn’t all signed, sealed and delivered for Memphis, though. A huge third quarter from the Wolves kept them in the game. Actually, let me rephrase: A huge third quarter from Love kept the Wolves in the game. In fact, Love scored 18 points to the Grizzlies’ 16. I thought it’d be enough to pull it off against a hot Memphis team but the steam ran dry in the fourth.
Now for real talk. Love had a big night but it was almost the reg for his production. A double-double with points in the 20′s, big whoop. But the problem tonight was the lack of physicality but also finesse in the paint at both ends. Ronny Turiaf and Dante Cunningham, don’t get me wrong, are solid players and make a difference whenever they’re game is on. Tonight was surely one of those nights, as they combined for 19 points and 17 rebounds. But the Wolves are a different team without Nikola Pekovic. That’s no lie.
Pekovic is a rare breed. A 6-foot-11 behemoth, who scares the pants off of any regular guy. He’s as strong as they get in the NBA and can bully his way to the rim with very little effort. The key to Pek’s game, though, is his ability to finesse around the physicality at times to give the defense different looks. We’ve seen him push his range and shoot jump shots. We’ve seen his baby hook off the right arm become a staple. It’s not all about backing down and rolling to the rim with him.
I worry that the Wolves, without Pekovic, become too one-dimesional on offense. Sure, you have Love, and we all know what to expect on a nightly basis, as I wrote before. But Kevin Martin will surely have his unpredictable off-nights and Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer are as reliable of scorers as wiping up a spill with toilet paper. The Grizzlies revealed that harsh truth tonight.
Wolves got Hawks in ATL tomorrow night. Another chance to get back over .500!