(The Sports Xchange) - Minnesota Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell has been urging his team to get out in transition virtually all season and against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, he got what he was looking for.
The Timberwolves exploded for 37 points in the second quarter and then held on late for a 106-101 win.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Memphis, who entered the night winning six of seven overall.
“Everyone thinks it’s easy to just roll the ball out there and say ‘run it,'” Mitchell said.
”There’s a time in the meat of the game where you have to play (half-court offense), take your lumps and go to the hole and take your beating. But early in the game, why would you want to do that?
“We had (21) points in transition at the half and that got us in a rhythm of being aggressive.”
Despite a double-digit lead heading to the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves did not make it easy on themselves.
The Grizzlies had chances down the stretch to take the lead but were never able to overcome the Timberwolves, who led by as many as 16 points in the first half.
Trailing by one with 35 seconds left, the Grizzlies had the ball to inbound in the offensive end of the court but were called for a five-second violation.
Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio made two free throws to make it a three-point game and Grizzlies guard Mike Conley missed a runner in the lane. Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins made two free throws to provide the final margin.
Rubio finished with 15 points and 12 assists. Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad led all scorers with 25 points in 33 minutes off the bench.
Mario Chalmers led the Grizzles with 19 points in a reserve role. Marc Gasol was one of two Memphis starters in double figures with 17 points.
“We played with a lot of heart and energy in the fourth quarter,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “We needed to do that in the first three quarters. Give them credit, they made a lot of shots tonight.”
Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee went three of three from the floor, including two three-pointers, to help Memphis to a 25-20 lead after 12 minutes.
The Timberwolves went on a 20-1 run midway through the second quarter led by Rubio, who scored seven consecutive points. Muhammad scored nine points in the quarter as Minnesota finished with a 24-8 burst, outscoring Memphis 37-21 in the second quarter alone.
At one point, Minnesota had a 21-2 edge in fast-break points.
“There was a good pace to the whole game,” Wiggins said. “We were all really efficient. We took good shots, made good decisions. We all helped each other.”
Rubio had 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds at the half as Minnesota took a 57-46 lead into the locker room. Muhammad had 13 points in 17 minutes.
Muhammad scored five more points in the third quarter as the Timberwolves took a 84-74 lead into the fourth quarter.
Memphis tightened down defensively in the second half, creeping closer in the fourth quarter.
Chalmers scored six straight points to get the Grizzlies within three with 5:26 left. A three-pointer by guard Vince Carter made it 95-93 with 4:16 left. Another three by Carter narrowed the deficit to one just over a minute later.
Grizzlies guard Matt Barnes drilled a three-pointer to tie the score at 99 with two minutes remaining.
“It’s nothing new,” Gasol said. “We feel comfortable at the end. The ball bounced their way and they won the game. You have to stay positive and think about the next game.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford