At 16-50, Memphis and Minnesota are both one-half game ahead of Seattle for the worst record in the West, but the Timberwolves come in having won four of their last six, including a 99-90 win over the Clippers on Monday. They snapped a three-game home losing streak with their third straight win over Los Angeles.
“There are lessons to be learned in these final games, and that’s what I’m trying to do here,” coach Randy Wittman said. “We’re not just going to ride this out. … We’ve got to learn and grow.”
Jefferson’s 14 rebounds were his most in 14 games and his four blocked shots tied a season high. Wittman said he challenged Jefferson to work on his defense after pulling him out of a 121-116 win at Seattle on Friday.
“He’s proven he can score and play at the offensive end,” Wittman said. “To be a complete player he’s got to do what he did tonight, and the things that he’s capable of.”
The Timberwolves are looking to snap a three-game losing streak to the Grizzlies, who beat them 109-80 on Dec. 1 in the only meeting this season. Jefferson had nine points and seven rebounds in that game.
He’s averaging just 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in seven career games against Memphis. It’s the fewest points he’s averaged against any team in his career.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, are looking to win back-to-back games for just the second time this season after beating Charlotte 98-80 on Monday to snap a four-game losing streak.
Memphis trailed by five at the end of the first half, before dominating the rest of the way. The Grizzlies scored 27 points off 18 Charlotte turnovers.
“All of us were sick and tired of being down and not being able to fight back,” Memphis rookie guard Mike Conley said. “We wanted to come back and get the lead, stay in the lead and keep moving from there.”
The 80 points were the fewest Memphis has allowed in 35 games. The Grizzlies have one of the league’s worst defenses and are allowing 105.9 points per game.
Leading scorer Rudy Gary had just eight points in 25 foul-plagued minutes. He’s averaging just 12.3 points on 35.7 percent shooting in his last three games.
Minnesota and Memphis play each other two more times in April.