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Timberwolves on fire in home opener win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Finally, Minnesota the Timberwolves displayed something they desperately lacked through two games this season: a killer instinct. Minnesota wounded a short-handed Grizzlies team in the first half Tuesday night and finished Memphis ...

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dribbles the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0) plays defense in the first half at Target Center in the hoome opener on Tuesday night. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dribbles the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0) plays defense in the first half at Target Center in the hoome opener on Tuesday night. Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Finally, Minnesota the Timberwolves displayed something they desperately lacked through two games this season: a killer instinct.

Minnesota wounded a short-handed Grizzlies team in the first half Tuesday night and finished Memphis off in the second half in a 116-80 rout in the Timberwolves' home opener at Target Center.

It was the Wolves' first win under new coach Tom Thibodeau. More importantly, it was the first time they've played something close to a 48-minute game.

They did so against a Memphis team that was without three of its top players. Chandler Parsons missed the game with a knee injury. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, one of the game's better point guard-center duos, sat out to rest.

"We just thought it was best that tonight, you know, we rested them," Memphis coach David Fizdale said. "Then you load up and you try to get a win at home tomorrow."

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Tuesday's game was Memphis' third of four in a span of five nights. The Grizzlies (2-2) played an overtime game on Sunday night and face New Orleans on Wednesday. And Conley and Gasol had surgeries this summer, so rest even this early in the season may make sense.

"You have to do what you think is best for your team," Thibodeau said. "The players' health has to come first."

Thibodeau said there's always a concern when you play a team that's without its best players. The short-handed team can have an edge to it in that scenario.

If Memphis had that Tuesday, it was squeezed out in the first quarter. In his first career start in place of the injured Ricky Rubio, rookie point guard Kris Dunn pushed the pace early for Minnesota, and the Timberwolves (1-2) shined. The Wolves were up 29-16 at the end of the first quarter. It was 62-36 at the half.

"The ball movement was great right from the beginning," Thibodeau said. "The sharing of the ball was really good particularly in the first half. When the ball moves and everyone's making quick decisions and the spacing is good, we're going to score."

But quick starts are nothing new for Minnesota this season. The Timberwolves jumped to 17-point leads early in each of their first two games, only to lose them late.

That was a topic of conversation at the break. When Minnesota has been successful this season, pace has played a large part. The second-half pace in each of Minnesota's first two games turned to a slog, and the Timberwolves struggled.

"Last two games we came out with great starts. Second half we went downhill," Dunn said. "We didn't come out with that same energy. That's what we focused on today. I think that's what we're trying to improve is come out the same way we did in the first half."

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Tuesday night, the Timberwolves sprinted off the break.

They scored 35 points in the third quarter - six more than they scored in the first two third quarters of the season combined. Minnesota built a lead of 40 points in the second half, which freed up a chance for the reserves to play the bulk of the fourth quarter.

"After halftime we've got to come out with more fight in the beginning of the third quarter, not turn the ball over, get good shots, play good defense," Brandon Rush said. "Tonight we were able to do that. We've got to carry that on through the rest of the year."

All five Timberwolves starters scored in double figures, led by Zach LaVine's 31 points. Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng each had 17, with Dieng hitting his first eight shots. He missed his ninth and final shot, joking later that he was too open.

The Wolves' biggest area of dominance came from the three-point line, where Minnesota hit 12 three-pointers on 60 percent shooting, while Memphis made just 4 of 24 attempts. The Timberwolves haven't had many nights in recent seasons with a shooting advantage that big.

"It's kind of tough to beat a team that shoots that well," Rush said.

Or playing as well as Minnesota did on Tuesday night. For four quarters, instead of just one.

"We're trying to make this home court like that, so when you come in, you've got to be ready," Dieng said, "or you're going to get just beat like that."

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
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