Memphis, First, Ja Morant gave the Memphis Grizzlies and their fans a much-needed energy boost by flying through the air for a big dunk at the end of the third quarter.
Then the All-Star guard took over the game’s final two minutes, AP reports.
Morant scored the last 13 points for Memphis, and his layup with a second left capped the Grizzlies’ big rally from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to edge the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 on Tuesday night and grab a 3-2 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.
“Go get a bucket. Ja,” Morant said of the game-winning play.
Morant, named the NBA’s most improved player on Monday, struggled mightily much of the game. But he turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points — including 9 of 10 at the free-throw line. His lone 3 of the game came with 1:03 left, giving Memphis its first lead since the first quarter.
“Obviously, he had a brilliant fourth quarter,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
The Grizzlies point guard came from the low post as the Grizzlies inbounded the ball with 3.7 seconds left and lost Anthony Edwards at the top of the key. That left him an open lane into the paint he’s so rarely had in this series, beating Jarred Vanderbilt with his left hand on an underhanded layup.
Edwards said he wanted to try to steal the ball.
“Dumb mistake,” Edwards said.
Morant finished with 30 and had 13 rebounds and nine assists. Desmond Bane added 25 points, and Brandon Clarke had 21 off the bench for Memphis, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 before fouling out.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Edwards had 22, and D’Angelo Russell added 12 and Taurean Prince 10.
Game 6 is Friday night back in Minnesota with the Wolves now trying to force a seventh game Sunday back in Memphis.
“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.”
The Timberwolves led 99-88 with 6:58 left after three free throws by Towns, and Jackson fouling out for a second straight game. The Grizzlies responded with a 10-0 run to set up a thrilling finish to what had been an ugly, poor-shooting game, and outscored Minnesota 37-24 in the fourth.
Edwards tied it up at 109 for Minnesota with a 3 with 3.7 seconds left. That set up Morant for the final drive to the basket for the game-winner to start the celebration.
Clarke said he told Morant during the hug he thanked God the Grizzlies have him on their team.
“Thank God that you’re as good as you are because we had just fought so hard,” Clarke said. “And hit a really tough 3. And I was just like, it’s fine, though, because we got 12 and we got a player that can make a really, really big-time finish. And I was like, ‘Yeah, thank God that we got you, man.’”
Jenkins was fined $15,000 Monday for criticizing the officiating after Game 4, a 119-118 win by Minnesota. On Tuesday, his Grizzlies got to the free-throw line more than Minnesota — they just didn’t shoot well once there, making 26 of 39 compared to Minnesota’s 21 of 24.
The Grizzlies opened the game on a 13-2 run and looked liked the team that earned the highest seed in franchise history.
Then Jackson got his second foul on Patrick Beverley’s 3 and went to the bench. The Timberwolves, the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team in the regular season, started knocking down shots, going 7 of 11 outside the arc and leading 31-28 at the end of the first quarter.
Minnesota was up 55-53 at halftime, then outscored Memphis 30-21 in the third. But Morant capped the quarter with a windmill dunk that helped give the Grizzlies some much-needed energy.
Source: Bahrain News Agency