Morant’s Big 4th, Helps Grizzlies Take 3-2 Series Lead…

With the series tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 between the #2 seed Memphis Grizzlies and the #7 Minnesota Timberwolves had high stakes. Usually the winner of a Game 5 with a series tied a two games apiece results in that team winning the series 82% of the time. Each team has won on the other team’s home floor and Memphis had to hold serve if they wanted to take a 3-2 series lead.   

The home team Grizzlies found a way to win the game 111-109 that was controlled for most of the game by Minnesota. 

Minnesota went into the 4th quarter with a 11-pt lead (85-74) and was the second time in this series where they have had a double-digit lead heading into the final quarter. They also had a 83-67 lead heading into the 4th in Game 3 on their home floor and lost the game 104-95. Memphis had trailed since late first quarter (28-27) and didn’t regain the lead again until 1:03 left in 4th (107-106). They were able to hold off Minnesota and take that series lead heading back on the road. 

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Memphis, a young team, was led by first-time All-Star JA Morant who was one assist away from his first career playoff triple-double scoring a game-high 30 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assist. Things were not easy for JA as he started the game slow with just six points at the half and was 2-7 from the FT line, he finished 11-17. He scored 18 of his 30 points (9-10 FT) in the 4th and had two of the biggest plays of the game in that final quarter; he knocked down the 3-pt with 1:03 to give Memphis it’s first lead since the first quarter, but his lay-up with one second remaining was the difference in the game and the biggest I believe of his young career. 

Morant on that final play, “Go get a bucket JA.”

He might have also had the dunk of these playoffs to end the third quarter over Minnesota’s Malik Beasley that got his home crowd back on their feet heading into the 4th. 

“I really wasn’t excited over the dunk, it was over a guard and that’s pretty easy.” Morant said about his dunk to end the third. 

Morant’s backcourt mate Desmond Bane showed up, scoring 25 points (15 in 1st half). Bane and Morant each played a game-high 45 minutes. Brandon Clarke who was a huge lift for this Memphis team in this series was second with 37 minutes off the bench and had a big double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds, nine of those came on the offensive end. Jaren Jackson Jr. who has been a key to the Memphis team all season on both offense and defense has not been able to stay on the floor for head coach Taylor Jenkins because of foul trouble. He fouled out with 6:58 left in the 4th attempting to contest a 3-pt by Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns; this was consecutives games Jackson Jr. has fouled out. He has more total fouls 26 in this series than field goals (18). 

He finished with just 12 points and five rebounds. 

Memphis was just 26-39 from the FT but were a +11 in rebounding 53-42. 

Photo By: AP Photo/Craig Lassig

The Timberwolves led by their two young superstars Anthony-Towns and Anthony Edwards. Anthony-Towns had his fourth double-double of the series with 28 points (5-7 3-pt) and 12 rebounds and he also made all nine of his FT attempts. 

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Towns said. “You feel like you got it after all the mistakes made and everything like that. We hit a big 3 to tie the game up with 4 seconds (left). You feel good. You feel good about going into overtime and having a chance to win the game. Just a learning experience.”

Edwards had 22 points but just 8-20 from the field. Edwards, who picked up his 5th foul with 10:47 remaining in the 4th had to sit for a majority of the quarter but made the game-tying 3-pt with 3.7 remaining to tie it at 109. His gamble at the end of the game on Morant gave a lane for a lay-up; that wound up hurting his team. I’m sure he wants that play back. He said after the game, “dumb mistake” on attempting to steal the ball on that final play for Memphis. 

D’Angelo Russell had 12 points and a team high eight assist. Taurean Prince had 10 points off the bench. Veteran and emotional leader Patrick Beverly had just nine points but he fouled out with just over two minutes remaining. 

Minnesota was a +21 from the 3-pt line and made 21-24 FT’s.   

Memphis is now one win away from advancing to the Conference Semifinals and they’ll need a better start on the road, if they want a chance to close this series out. 

Game 6: Thursday 4/28 @4:30 PT  

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