The Timberwolves traded for Rudy Gobert in part because Gobert was going to help them with one of their biggest deficiencies a season ago — defensive rebounding.
Gobert is tied for the league lead in rebounds, but the Wolves aren't getting the production they need from other positions, specifically their backcourt.
Memphis converted a lot of these long rebounds into 32 second-chance points. Guards D'Angelo Russell, Jordan McLaughlin and Jaylen Nowell each finished Friday's game without registering a board.
The Wolves are 5-8 through their first 13 games, and they have not improved at one of their prime weaknesses. Entering Saturday, they ranked 27th in defensive rebounding percentage (.683). The same problems keep repeating themselves. They allow the most second-chance points of any team (18.1 per game).
"We can't count on Rudy to get all [the rebounds]," guard Anthony Edwards said. "It's up to us guards. And we be leaking out sometimes when they shoot the ball or we think we've got a turnover or we think we're going to get the rebound. But we can't think we're going to get the rebound, we've just got to go get it."
The Wolves often find themselves standing around and not getting involved in the mix for a board.
"Sometimes we watch the ball and just sit, including myself," Edwards said. "We've just got to give the second effort to go get the ball."
Edwards had six rebounds on Friday, but coach Chris Finch was still looking for more out of Edwards in that department. Grizzlies guard Ja Morant showed how a guard could rebound by getting 10.
Boxing out would help with that. The Wolves seem to forget that part of rebounding, especially the guards, who can be guilty of just watching the ball.
"You've just got to want to do it," Edwards said. "Just got to want to do it, man. I think the majority of us look at our man, first. Then think he's not crashing, and when we turn our head, he crash."
Or the Wolves may crash for a rebound and the ball ends up going over their heads. Boxing out can still help prevent the opponent from getting a rebound in that situation.
Some of the Wolves' issues early in the season are controllable. Transition defense has been a constant thorn in their side, and the Wolves can solve a lot of problems there by just getting back on defense quicker. That area has improved a bit since the season began, as their number of fast-break points allowed has gone down over the past two weeks.
Rebounding and boxing out are things teams can improve with renewed focus. But the Wolves have been talking about doing the same things for over a season, and they haven't improved on the boards.
The Wolves have designs on being one of the top defenses in the league with Gobert manning the post. But they could play 24 seconds of solid defense, and then it all unravels if they can't get the rebound. Nobody exposed that flaw in the Wolves' makeup more than Memphis has.
"We did a lot of things better, but we got beat in the end with something we knew was a strength of theirs," Finch said. "We weren't able to put a stop to it."