The Minnesota Timberwolves are four games above .500 but haven’t had a winning streak of any kind since the middle of November, a trend they’ll attempt to reverse when they visit the reeling Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. Behind Jimmy Butler, who scored 20 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves outlasted the Los Angeles Clippers 112-106 on Sunday at home.
Minnesota has alternated wins and losses over its last eight contests following a three-game winning streak from Nov. 13-17. Tyreke Evans scored 31 points to go along with 12 assists and Marc Gasol added 27 points in the Grizzlies’ 11th straight loss, a 116-111 setback against Cleveland on Saturday. Memphis took some comfort in staying close with the hottest team in the NBA, only to succumb to another outstanding effort by LeBron James. “That effort tonight would have beaten 90 percent of this league on their home court,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. “Unfortunately, they’ve got a guy who is pretty damn good.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Southeast (Memphis)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (14-10): Butler averaged 16.2 points and 4.4 assists in October, 17.9 points and 4.5 assists in November and is at 22 and seven through the first two games this month as he gains comfort with his new team. Center Karl-Anthony Towns leads the NBA with 19 double-doubles after going for 15 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s win. Minnesota is 1-1 thus far in a stretch during which it plays six of seven games against sub-.500 teams from the Western Conference, against whom it is 11-4.
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (7-15): Evans is averaging 18.7 points and seven assists in three starts as the team waits for regular starting point guard Mike Conley (Achilles) to return, but he needed some urging from Bickerstaff to be more assertive his last time out. “(On Friday night), I was just trying to be too much of a point guard, getting everybody involved, but (Bickerstaff) just told me to do the same but be aggressive,” Evans told reporters Saturday. “That’s what I did. I was being aggressive and took what the defense gave me.” Gasol topped 20 points for the first time since Nov. 15, which also was the last time the Grizzlies scored at least 100.
1. Minnesota made 28-of-31 free throws Sunday and is 62-for-71 over its last three games.
2. Butler has played at least 40 minutes in consecutive contests for the first time in over a year.
3. The Grizzlies won three of the four meetings last season, including a 93-71 rout in the last matchup in Memphis.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 104, Grizzlies 98