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D’Angelo Russell lifts Minnesota past Memphis

Match comes down to the wire, Wolves came through with a 119-114 victory

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell (0) looks to pass while Memphis Grizzlies guard Ziaire Williams (8) defends Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in the first quarter at Target Center.
David Berding / USA Today Sports
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An almost prophetic Chris Finch said that, coming out of the All-Star break, the Timberwolves needed to improve the manner in which they closed games.

That figured to rear its head against Memphis. In two earlier losses to the Grizzlies, Minnesota was in a great position to win the game, only to have it slip away late. Minnesota had a tendency to get stagnant in such situations, with the offense screeching to a halt and the defense holding on for dear life.

Sure enough, Minnesota’s tilt with the Grizzlies on Thursday at Target Center came down to the wire.

This time, the Wolves came through, holding off Memphis for 119-114 victory.

It’s not unusual for D’Angelo Russell to attack late in games. He has a penchant for wanting to take the shot when the game is on the line. What was different Thursday was the way in which he attacked. Russell dissected Memphis’ defense, attacking mismatches off the bounce to get to the rim at will when the game was on the line.

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He scored 20 points in the paint, which usually would account for three-plus games of scoring for the guard who much prefers to pull up in the mid range. Russell dominated for Minnesota offensively, scoring or assisting on 26 straight points for the Wolves in the final frame.

The point guard finished with 37 points and nine assists.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8) compete for the ball in the first quarter Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, at Target Center.
David Berding / USA Today Sports

Memphis star guard Ja Morant left the game briefly in the third quarter after coming up lame on a drive, but returned to start the fourth frame. He still didn’t appear to be 100 percent physically, but he still attacked the rim nearly every time down the floor in the final frame. The All-Star guard and fringe MVP candidate scored 10 of his 20 points in the final frame.

And whenever he missed, a teammate was usually there to follow the miss. Memphis collected 26 offensive rebounds that led to 27 second-chance points. That nearly did Minnesota in, yet the Wolves still prevailed.

Because with Minnesota up three points and seconds to play, Morant shot an air ball from deep with Anthony Edwards right in his grill. Edwards was awful offensively Thursday, going 1 for 11 from the field, but his defense was a differentiator.

Minnesota closed it out.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) drives to the basket while Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams (4) defends in the second quarter Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, at Target Center.
David Berding / USA Today Sports

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