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Grizzlies 111, Wolves 109: Heartbreak in Memphis

A game-winning layup by Ja Morant gives Memphis a 3-2 series lead heading back to Minneapolis.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Christine Tannous-USA TODAY Sports

If you are playing a bingo game of creative ways that the Minnesota Timberwolves could lose in the playoffs, you’re probably the only one happy with this loss. Like in a few of their other losses, Minnesota was the better team of this game but ultimately lost 111-109. Now they have to win out in order to advance.

Game Recap

After letting Memphis score the first few buckets of the game, Minnesota took over and played in control of the first and second quarters. There wasn’t a particular thing they were doing well though. Memphis was playing like a team afraid of losing while the Wolves were loose and playing like a team that is there for the party.

Unfortunately, this happened to end the third…

Then, while withstanding the massive energy uptick Ja’s dunk gave Memphis the Wolves were able to foul Jaren Jackson Jr out with 6:58 left. This served as a rallying cry as Memphis would go on a 10-0 run in the next 2:19 and be down 99-98 with 4:39 remaining. They’d go back back and forth to the end of the game with Minnesota tying it with 3.7 left off a magnificent Anthony Edwards three. Then Anthony Edwards would unfortunately gamble a steal while Morant made the game winning layup.

“Defensive Rebound Are Overrated”-Whoever Was Guarding Brandon Clarke, Probably.

Part of what got Memphis back into the game was Brandon Clarke feasting on the glass. Just in the fourth quarter alone, Clarke had seven offensive rebounds. For a frame of reference, the Wolves had 11 total rebounds in the fourth (12 if you count the heave as time ran out). They just couldn’t keep the Grizz off the glass. Memphis ended with 11 more total rebounds than Minnesota (53-42) and 10 more offensive ones (18-8).

The Offense Stalls Late Again

If the issue above wasn’t so prevalent a safe, consistent bucket getter would’ve shot to the number one spot on my Timberwolves team needs. It seems to be a common occurrence at this point. The Wolves look good, run up the lead, build our confidence up, and then put a lid on the basket and end the game or certain quarters in a mess. After an incredibly encouraging third quarter, the Wolves let Memphis outscore them 37-24 in the fourth. The TPups shot 33.3% from the field and 37.5% from three point land for the fourth quarter as well. Memphis, on the other hand, shot 43.5% from the field and 50% from three.

Role Players Doing Their Thing

Okay, now time for some bright side things…let’s talk about Taurean Prince, Jordan McLaughlin, and Jaden McDaniels and their respective brilliance.

Taurean Prince’s hidden offensive creation talents were on display as there were multiple points in the game where the offense stalled, the team dumped the ball to Prince, and he just made something happen. It wasn’t something I expected from him when Minnesota acquired him but I am more than happy about seeing it.

Jordan McLaughlin was trusted to close the game once Patrick Beverley fouled out and provided the steady handed table setting that this Wolves offense desperately needs in the late game. He had a pass to Anthony Edwards that would’ve sent the game into overtime.

Jaden McDaniels at this point has sold me on him being the starter for this team going forward. The box score won’t show it, but he was fantastic this game and also got the nod to close the game and played great defense. As flawed as he and Vanderbilt are, McDaniel’s growth throughout this series and Coach Chris Finch’s constant faith in him are very encouraging.

Final Thoughts…

The Wolves have had two needs show up constantly throughout the season and this series has done nothing but point them out more and more. They need a bucket getter, which they may have in Jaylen Nowell if they can ever find a consistent role for him, and they need a dynamic rebounding forward that can space the floor and defend a little. The list of players that fit those descriptions should be on their offseason targets whiteboard.

However, not looking bigger picture, the Wolves now have their back against the wall and are returning to Target Center having to win to stay alive. They’ll have to game plan for Desmond Bane’s three point eruption and fixing the rebounding issue. This is the second game that they should’ve won but let slip away and these two losses may very well come back to haunt them.

Fortunately, the series isn’t over yet! Minnesota plays Memphis again on Friday for Game 6 and it should be a very entertaining game even if it is (possibly) the last one of the season. Wolves fans should be able to take solace in the fact that their matchup against a two-seed has been the best series of the playoffs so far.

Wolves in... seven?

Game Highlights