The last five days of the regular season will likely feature a good amount of jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference standings. The Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, however, will be fighting for draft position.
The Grizzlies and Timberwolves meet in Memphis on Saturday in a matchup between rebuilding teams heading back to the lottery.
The top nine teams in the West are locked in a tight race, making the home stretch of the regular season particularly important for seeding purposes. But Memphis (22-57) and Minnesota (20-59) aren’t worried about that race, as they’re currently in 13th and 14th place in the conference, respectively. Only Seattle has a worse record at 18-62.
Though they’ve clinched their second consecutive last-place finish in the Southwest Division, the Grizzlies have fared better over their last five games, winning three in that stretch, including a 113-101 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday.
That loss was part of Minnesota’s six-game losing streak to start April, but the Timberwolves snapped the skid with a 102-101 win over Orlando on Friday night. Ryan Gomes made a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining as Minnesota overcame a 14-point second-half deficit.
“It’s just motivation for us to compete through the end,” Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. “We’ve kind of set up little goals for ourselves; our little playoff thing.
“Sometimes it’s hard playing these last three or four games knowing you don’t have anything at the end.”
Though they’re in the same position with little left to play for, the Grizzlies have scored 107.6 points and shot 48.1 percent from the field in going 3-2 to start April. Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry had 17 points apiece to lead six Memphis players scoring in double figures in Friday’s 96-91 victory over Miami.
“I thought everybody played their role and nobody tried to do too much,” said rookie point guard Mike Conley, who added 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Second-year forward Rudy Gay, leading Memphis in scoring with 20.3 points per game, has scored 23.0 and shot 50.0 percent as the Grizzlies have won two of their first three games against the Timberwolves. He had 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in the teams’ last meeting.
Gomes, averaging 16.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in his last 19 games, had 19 points and eight boards in that loss, but has been held to 16 total points and 3-for-19 shooting in his two previous games in the series.