If I told you that Ja Morant had the first triple-double in
Grizzlies playoff history and Desmond Bane hit the most threes in a
playoff game in franchise history, one might assume that Memphis
cruised to a Game 3 victory in Minnesota.
It was anything but an easy win for the Grizzlies; in fact, it
would be better described as improbable.
Taylor Jenkins made the decision to start Kyle Anderson over
Steven Adams in Game 3, but it seemed as if the adjustment did not
matter. The Timberwolves punched the Grizzlies square in the mouth,
opening the game on a 12-0 run led by Patrick Beverley's 8 points
in that span.
The adjustments by Chris Finch were clear. They were going to
attack Morant on defense and then double him as the pick-and-roll
ball-handler. It was a masterclass in gameplanning for the
Timberwolves and they were executing it to perfection.
Beverley was telling his teammates to get out of the way so he
could go at the All-Star guard. This happened several times in the
first quarter. The 10-year NBA veteran made it clear that the
gameplan was to attack the poor defending Morant, so he did it over
and over. The result was either going to be a foul or a bucket and
not only did Beverley score eight of the first 12 points, Morant
had two fouls in the first quarter, causing him to check out of the
game six minutes earlier than normal.
Since Game 1, Minnesota has had the same strategy on defense. In
the clip above, watch as Morant drives into the paint. Minnesota
has four guys with a foot in the paint, with D'Angelo Russell a
step outside himself. Why can the Wolves pack the paint and take Ja
out of his game? Look who is on the floor for Memphis.
Brandon Clarke and Kyle Anderson strike fear in nary a soul when
it comes to perimeter shooting, allowing for three bodies on Ja any
time he drives. The only true threat on the floor is Desmond Bane,
while Tyus Jones is a capable shooter. The activity of Minnesota
forces Morant to turn it over here.
Karl Anthony-Towns did do one thing well in Game 3 and that was
hedging, switching and doubling the ball-screens on Morant. This
clip is just one of several moments early in the game when
Minnesota blitzed Morant, getting the ball out of his hands early
or forcing him into a tough shot.
The gameplan was there. The Wolves were executing it. Until they
Up 18 points to end the first quarter, Minnesota scored eight
straight to open the second, giving them a 47-21 lead at the 10:28
mark. Memphis proceeded to go on a 23-4 run to pull within seven
points at the half.
At this moment, Memphis had to feel as if they seized momentum
and the Timberwolves had to be feeling the pressure, right? Except,
Minnesota started the second half the same way they started the
game — absolutely dominating the Grizzlies.
The Wolves' lead ballooned back up to 25 points with three
minutes left to go in the third quarter. It seemed as if Memphis
gave everything they had just to claw back in it, only to lose it
again. It was embarassingly bad basketball.
Bane, one of the heroes for Memphis, was asked about his
thoughts on the game afterward:
Me: “Where did that rank in terms of
weirdest games you’ve ever played?”
Desmond Bane: “No. 1. I ain’t never been down 20 twice.”
Twice. Memphis went down 20+ twice in one contest after it was a
single-digit game. The Grizz could have mailed it in down 25 with
15 minutes of game time remaining. But according to Rob Fischer of
GrindCity Media and Bally Sports, Coach Jenkins' message in the
huddle was simply to go out there and just play good
Target Center was rocking, booing Morant every time he caught a
pass and erupting at every Wolves basket. According to Devin
Walker, the Grizzlies' social director, the in-house DJ even had
"Whoop That Trick" in the queue to troll the Grizzlies, as it is
their song of choice following a playoff victory.
Even still, Memphis ended the third on a 13-4 run, down 16
heading into the final frame — much more manageable to do the
improbable than down 20+.
It was 83-67 after Memphis scored the final 5 points of the
third quarter. At the 8:33 mark, less than four minutes into the
fourth, Bane drilled his sixth three to knot the score at
In 4:32 of game time, the Grizzlies went on a 21-0 run, coming
back from all but certain death. The energy in the Target Center
belonged to the visitors as fans sat in disbelief. Even crazier, it
wasn't Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Dillon Brooks leading the
After a Tyus Jones three to give Memphis their first lead,
86-85, Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke scored the next 13 points
for Memphis to not only complete an improbable comeback but to put
the game away for fans to make an early exit.
“I don’t really know how we did it” — Taylor
When you do the improbable, sometimes there is no explanation.
During the 21-0 run, Minnesota shot 0-10 and turned it over five
times. No one player from the Grizz had a historic showing to will
their team to victory. Their coaches believed in them and, more
importantly, they believed in each other.
So, what's next for Minnesota? Can the young Wolves put that
loss behind them and dominate the way they did for two quarters of
play? Can they overcome the growing pains that come with being a
young team in their first playoffs for a franchise that's been
starving for postseason play?
Chris Finch should have called a timeout to stop a 21-0 run.
Karl-Anthony Towns has to be a better leader on and off the floor.
There's a mess in Minnesota that can be cleaned up with a win on
Saturday, but a 3-1 deficit heading back to Memphis may cause a
long look at how the team builds for the future.
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