Grizzlies snatch ‘weird game’ win in Game 3 against Timberwolves

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Terry Davis

Years from now – when the franchise records of the Grizzlies are being examined – Memphis’ “weird game” win in Game 3 of this season’s playoffs will jump off the page.

Down by 20-plus deficits in both halves, the Grizzlies climbed out of a 26-point hole for a 104-95 win, the franchise’s largest come-from-behind victory.

“Number one,” said leading scorer (26 points) Desmond Bane, responding to where the game ranked on the weird meter. “I have never been down 20 twice and won. It was a weird game.

“It is an emotional win. Enjoy it tonight.  Look at the film and hopefully come back Saturday with a better approach. We kept our composure.”

Once again in this Western Conference opening-round series, the Grizzlies had to grit their way through foul trouble. Starters Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. each had two fouls by the end of the second quarter. The Timberwolves took full advantage of Memphis’ star players playing less aggressively to cope with the foul issues.

With 9:31 left in the first half, Minnesota took its largest lead (47-21). But the No. 7 seed Timberwolves were playing the resilient No. 2 Grizzlies, who responded with 15-0 run to end the half and close the gap to seven (51-44).

Bane keyed the run.

“They came out early and punked us. They were pressuring ball handlers. We were on our heels.  We found our stride and that is why we won,” said Bane.

“We had to fix our body language. We lost our juice. It is a long game, a lot can happen. We found a way to get some stops. Our offense (started) clicking a little bit more and the rest is history.”

Unable to maintain the momentum they rode into halftime, the Grizzlies fell prey to a Timberwolves push and trailed 79-54 with 2:57 left in the third quarter. Undaunted, Memphis stepped up its game on defense, outscoring Minnesota 50-16 to end the game. The Timberwolves only scratched out 12 points in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies’ bench, which scored 60 points in the Game 2 win that knotted the best-of-seven series at a game apiece, outscored the Minnesota bench 41-22. Brandon Clarke (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Tyus Jones (11 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds) were masterful in their reserve roles.

Clearly a team-effort win, the game-changing impact of Bane, Clarke and Jones registered large to Morant, who recorded the first triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in the history of the Grizzlies.

“My teammates deserve a lot more respect and recognition for what they do for us on the floor,” said Morant, emphasizing his assessment that the Grizzlies are “the deepest team in the league.”

Zeroing in on the contributions of Jones, Clarke and Bane, Morant said, “A lot of credit goes to those guys. I feel like they pretty much are the ones that kept us in the game….”

For Minnesota-native Jones, the game was a homecoming and the realization of dreams of playing at the Target Center in playoff moments.

“I was just ready for it,” said Jones. “I work(ed) my ass off for those moments in an NBA arena. My coaches trusted me to deliver in those moments. I was ready for it.”

So was Clarke.

“Usually when you are down by 20 you wind up losing by 30,” said Clarke, who started the second half. “I have not been on a team that has been able to do that. Our team has a lot of talent. We have dogs. We have guys that can fight. We come out and fight every night.”

Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said the Grizzlies maintained their energy after the comebacks by focusing on one possession at a time and tapping into what he called a phenomenal spirit level.

“It is hard when they (the Timberwolves) keep making haymaker after haymaker. Their defensive intensity was unreal tonight.  Every time we would take the ball out, there was someone there. They were spreading us out. Once we got some stops and were poised, it made a difference for us in the fourth quarter. We had the juice and the spirit.”

During the comebacks, Jenkins said he told the team, “Just stay the course. A lot of basketball left.  Come out and play with a lot of physicality. Just chip away one possession at a time and keep making winning plays.”

The Grizzlies can’t “expect to play like this every game,” he said. “We have got to come out and set a tone earlier. … We can get better in a lot of areas.  We have got to be better for 48 minutes.”

Minnesota was led by D’Angelo Russell with 22 points and 8 assists. Anthony Edwards, who was a major pain for the Grizzlies in Game 1 (36 points) and a 20-plus-point problem in Game 2, was held to 19 points. Center Karl Anthony-Towns only took four shots in the game and finished with 8 points.

As expected, the Target Center rocked with a raucous crowd that continuously rained boos on Morant, who asked for the ball and jubilantly tossed it in the air after the final buzzer.

“I’m disrespectful just like they (are) disrespectful …,” said Morant.

“Like I said this morning, that was our goal – come in and win games on the road and have their fans go home mad….”

Next

Game 4 is set for tip-off at 9 p.m. on Saturday (April 23) at the Target Center. The game can be seen on ESPN and Bally Sports.