Timberwolves-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies are undermanned and have been especially bad at home lately, but based on their recent meetings with the Minnesota Timberwolves, there may be no team they're more happy to host.

Unfortunately for Memphis, Kevin Love won't be sitting this one out.

More than half of the Grizzlies' 11 straight wins against the Timberwolves have come with Love on the sidelines, but they'll have to figure out a way to contain Minnesota's star on Sunday fresh off one of the best games of his career.

Tony Allen and Zach Randolph have missed time, Quincy Pondexter may be out for the season and Marc Gasol's timetable for returning from an MCL sprain is unclear, so Memphis (10-12) hardly resembles the group that played in the Western Conference finals less than seven months ago.

The Grizzlies have lost seven of 10, with Friday's 104-98 defeat in New Orleans their third straight loss in which they allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better.

Memphis led by nine late in the second quarter before the Pelicans went on a 45-17 run over the next 17 minutes.

"We just couldn't score, then they just hit their shots," Randolph said.

Randolph and Memphis haven't had a tough time slowing down the Timberwolves (11-12) in recent seasons, winning the last 11 meetings while holding Minnesota to just 85.8 points per game.

But the Timberwolves didn't have Love for six of those, including all three in last season's series, and that can mean quite a bit against Minnesota. Love had a season-high 42 points and 14 rebounds on Friday, though the Timberwolves blew a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in a 117-110 loss to San Antonio.

That didn't keep Spurs coach Gregg Popovich from being impressed.

''He is a great player,'' Popovich said. ''When you can play inside and outside the way he does, he is a tough cover. ... I thought we made some really fundamental errors in guarding him, but, be that as it may, he is a monster.''

Love has missed four of the Timberwolves' last five games in Memphis, and Minnesota has dropped eight straight in FedEx Forum since a 94-87 win Jan. 6, 2009 - Love's rookie season.

Love hit 8 of 9 from 3-point range against the Spurs, but the Timberwolves' shooting has mostly been cold all month. Minnesota is shooting 40.2 percent from the field in December, by far the worst in the West.

Love has taken 137 3s - easily the most of any non-guard in the league - and with him spending a lot of time on the perimeter, the Timberwolves have struggled inside. Minnesota has been outscored in the paint by an average of 14.5 points in its last eight games.

That should be good news for Memphis, which has outscored opponents by an average of 8.7 points in the lane this month despite the absence of Gasol.

The Grizzlies, however, haven't exactly been efficient - particularly at home. Memphis has lost seven of nine at FedEx Forum and is shooting just 39.5 percent there in its last four games.

Perhaps no player on either team has struggled more with his shot than Ricky Rubio, but the Timberwolves' point guard has shown some signs of turning it around the last few games.

Averaging 8.4 points and shooting just 36.0 percent through Dec. 7, Rubio has averaged 17.0 points and shot 44.1 percent to go along with 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game in his last three.

Minnesota is 8-2 if Rubio scores 12 points or more.

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