Five notes from the Memphis Grizzlies’ six-game win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the Western Conference Series, including 114-106 Victory Friday night in the goal center:
1. Clark is Memphis’ best first-round player
Ja Morant defended Desmond Bain as the Grizzlies’ most valuable player in the series after Game Six, and his case was strong,
“If you ask me, the best player in this series would be this guy here,” Morrant said, pointing to Bane sitting next to him. “Over and over again, he played big and made some big shots for us. He even kept us in the game. [tonight] He gave us the lead.”
Bane Memphis led in the scoring (23.5 ppg) and his shot was 27 of 56 on 3-pointers (48%) like a flurry of body strikes whenever Minnesota began to breathe easy. Dillon Brooks scored 23 in the playoff and chased Anthony Edwards for much of the series.
But Brandon Clark, the 6-foot-7 Grizzlies striker from Gonzaga, seemed to give his side everything they needed, at any given time. Clarke scored 17 points and 11 rebounds in the playoff and averaged 16.5 and 9.0 in major reinforcements from the regular season (10.4 and 5.3). Twenty-three of his followers came on the offensive glass, including five on Friday.
“His energy and vigor was fantastic,” said coach Taylor Jenkins. “We don’t win the series without what he did. … the nudge he gives us off the bench, he’s running down the floor, he’s just ‘Johnny on the spot’ wherever the ball, rebounds, offensive bounces, or passes are. His teammates trust him. a lot when he’s picking and rolling…and defensively he took on a lot of challenging tasks–running guards, guarding towns for a large part of the series.”
Clarke was in the middle of a decisive bucket on Friday, too, when Morant put a hockey help into his hands and passed to Garen Jackson Jr. for a dunk that made it 108-104 with 36 seconds left.
“A lot of credit to him,” Jenkins said. “He definitely upped his game. He made a big statement on the series.”
2. Minnesota blew another fourth-quarter lead
Never before in the history of the NBA Extension had a team twice returned to win after trailing by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies checked this box 5 . gameerasing an 11-point deficit in the final 6:48, after a scramble of 16 again in the final period of 3 . game.
So when Memphis reset for the final 12 minutes on Friday, down 84-74 on the road to deal with a raucous crowd and a multi-faceted attack from Minnesota, the Grizzlies had to think: I got them exactly where we want them.
It only took 100 seconds for Memphis to turn it into a single possession game at 85-82. They tied it up in 94-94 in the middle of the quarter through three Bane’s. The Grizzlies left Minnesota off the hook for a brief period when they only got one point from a 1 hardcore position with 3:46 left – Clarke made only one free throw and the Wolves rallied for the best defensive position of the night to thwart three quick-fire attempts.
At 3:03, Bane hit another 3-pointer and Ja Morant’s line in a layup that made him 103-99 with 2:25 to play. Minnesota, which rushed and squandered three holdings in a row at about the same time, never drove it again. Whatever Memphis has been doing late in the games, she has done again. All Minnesota has had issues with closed classes and games are haunting them again.
How bad is that? In the eighteenth quarter, one to three, of the six matches, the Wolves outnumbered the Grizzlies 519-490. In the fourth six quarters, they outperformed 198-136, including 40-22 in the playoff.
“Obviously the wins were pretty ugly outside of Game 2, but we got it done,” Morant said.
It’s a flexible, if not risky, way to beat a streak and learn the Grizzlies are flirting with trouble. It’s hard to blame them, though, given how late wolves are expected to cough up like furballs.
“Just dump the plays,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said of the multiple meltdowns.
3. Welcome to the playoffs, JJJ
Garen Jackson Jr. hasn’t been able to get traction in most of the series, as he has struggled with errors that have seen him sit more on the bench than on the field in five games. But he stayed around for more than 34 minutes at the end, scoring 18 points, collecting 14 rebounds, shooting three and blocking two.
“Yes, it feels good to be up,” said Jackson, whose father – a former NBA player – was at home. “Still not satisfied. We have to keep dealing with the good and the bad with every game. Even when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, you should take the same approach, even when it’s a good game, you should just learn from it.”
Jenkins knocked Jackson out of the middle of the first quarter with just one foul, and he avoided his pattern of two early fouls.
“His activity is on the defensive side, his discipline has been really good,” the Memphis coach said. “He had a great stretch in the fourth quarter – loose balls, rebounds, vertical. … he just had a game of bouncing back. It’s obviously a tough streak for him but he kept going away, and he was never defeated.”
4. Lots of fun Minnesota moments
It’s too early to issue a referendum on Wolves’ season and status, but it’s safe to say the team took some steps through its tough lessons against Memphis. Cities mourned the shaky performances, then hit back to earn new respect for a man with barely any appeal in the playoff. Anthony Edwards showed his raw potential, even when his judgment and inconsistency in matches helped.
Jalen McDaniels earned a budding star off the bench in Game 6 with 17 points, four three-pointers, and bumpy immersion in the face of Jackson. The back area at the start was still an issue, with Patrick Beverly past his peak as a full-time rookie and a troublemaker, while D’Angelo Russell seemed to shrink back when the Wolves needed him most.
We’re still learning,” Finch said. “Playing in these high-impact positions is huge for us. I thought with composure, once again, we showed that. [a lack of] In choosing the fourth shot. It’s baked into our DNA now. We know we have to learn from this, and not all of us will be able to salvage the situation.
“Going forward, we will learn, laugh, and hopefully grow from it.”
5. Sleep fast, old gray
Taking down Minnesota State in six games instead of seven gave the victor nothing. They’re still facing Sunday morning at the FedEx Forum, and only now is their first game against the formidable Golden State Warriors (3:30 ET, ABC). That gave the Grizzlies about 39 hours of the last century of one series to the opening party of the Western Conference semifinals.
“Go to sleep, get up in the morning, travel,” Morante said while describing the series as a “drain.”
The viewability for the next round should be phenomenal. Golden State, which is actually ranked lower, starts on the road. He’s bringing a new killer lineup with Steve Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Paul and Draymond Green in their series against Denver. Memphis also found loneliness annoying when he used Jenkins Morant, Tyus Jones, Bane, Brooks and Clarke in a small formation against Minnesota.
The Grizzlies just finished off their first win in the series since 2015. The Warriors have reached five Finals and won three in the same time frame.
“Confidence doesn’t change though,” said Jackson, Jr. “We’re happy with the result, but we’ve always had a big picture since we’ve been playing with each other. It’s been a few years now… We’ve always had goals to go further. We never settled down. Keep thinking forward. That’s the point.”
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