Memphis Apr 27 (US): First, Ja Morant gave the Memphis Grizzlies and their fans a much-needed energy boost by flying through the air for a major immersion at the end of the third quarter.
Then the All-Star goalkeeper took control of the final two minutes of the game, The Associated Press reported.
Morant scored the last 13 points for the Memphis, and his second departure from the left capped the Grizzlies’ big lead of 11 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 Tuesday night and snatch a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference series first round.
“Go get a bucket. Ja,” Morrant said of the game’s winning play.
Morant, who was named the NBA Most Valuable Player on Monday, struggled hard during the game. But he turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points — including 9 of 10 at the free throw line. His only third game came at 1:03 from the left, giving Memphis their first lead since the first quarter.
“He obviously had a fantastic fourth quarter,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
The Grizzlies point guard came from the low post as the Grizzlies entered the ball 3.7 seconds from the left and Anthony Edwards lost at the top of the key. That left him in an open lane in paint rarely found in the series, as he beat Jared Vanderbilt with his left hand on a bluff throw.
Edwards said he wanted to try to steal the ball.
“A stupid mistake,” Edwards said.
Morant finished with 30, scored 13 rebounds and nine assists. Desmond added between 25 points, Brandon Clark 21 points off the bench, and Garen Jackson Jr. added 12 points before making a mistake.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Edwards had 22, D’Angelo Russell added 12 and Taurean Prince 10.
Game Six returns Friday night in Minnesota as the Wolves now attempt a replay of Game Seven on Sunday in Memphis.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Townes said. “You feel like you got it after all the mistakes made and everything like that. We made a big 3 to tie the match to 4secs (left). You’re fine. You feel good about going into overtime and having a chance to win the match. Just a learning experience” .
The Timberwolves led 99-88 with 6:58 seconds left after three free throws from Towns, and passed Jackson for the second game in a row. The Grizzlies responded 10-0 to put a thrilling end to what had been an ugly, poorly kicked game, outplaying Minnesota 37-24 on the fourth.
Edwards tied at 109 for Minnesota with 3 with 3.7 seconds left. This set up Morant for the final push into the basket for the game winner to start the celebration.
Clarke said he told Morant during the hug that he thanked God for having the Grizzlies on their team.
“Thank God you’re as good as you are because we just fought so hard,” Clark said. “And I hit a really tough 3. And I was just like that, though, because we got 12 and we have a player who can finish a really great time. And I was like, ‘Yeah, thank God we got you, man.’”
Jenkins was fined $15,000 Monday for criticizing the referee after Game 4, with Minnesota winning 119-118. On Tuesday, the Grizzlies hit the free-throw line more than Minnesota — they didn’t shoot well once there, making 26 of 39 compared to 21 of 24 in Minnesota.
The Grizzlies opened the game 13-2 and seemed to like the team with the highest rating in franchise history.
Then Jackson got his second foul on Patrick Beverly 3 and went to the bench. The Timberwolves, the NBA’s top three-pointed shooting team in the regular season, started to hit the ground running, leading 7 of 11 out of the arc and a 31-28 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Minnesota led 55-53 in the first inning, then edged out Memphis 30-21 in the third. But Morrant covered the quarter with a windmill submersion that helped give the Grizzlies some much-needed energy.
Timberwolves: Russell came in at 17th out of 55 overall and 9th out of 24 from beyond the arc in the series. He dropped his first two shots on Tuesday, with a pair of 3s in a row, and finished 2 of 4 of 3 and 4 of 10 on the floor. … Beverly played his first four-point game in the postseason at 8:14 of the first quarter.
Grizzlies: Memphis beat Minnesota 53-42, including 18-6 on the attacking glass. This took the Grizzlies to 23 points again. Bane got technique in the second quarter to push him Timberwolves coach Chris Finch. Bane also opened the game with his 20 triple points in the series. Zyaer Williams played four minutes and did not finish the match with a sore right knee.
Memphis overtook Minnesota 53-42, including 18-6 on the attacking glass. This took the Grizzlies to 23 points again. Clark scored 15 rebounds and nine offensive.
“He’s always in the right place at the right time,” Townes said of Clark. “You go up for a block, and it magically spins in the exact spot where the ball goes.”
in the crowd
Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph were previously present from the Grizzlies along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Kentucky coach John Calipari sat near the Timberwolves bench. Alex Rodriguez, a Minnesota co-owner, was also in attendance, and Asher was on hand as well seated next to Morant’s father T.