MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After suffering through three quarters that were frustrating, Memphis GrizzliesGuard Ja MorantHe exploded with avengeance Tuesday night in one the most thrilling closing performances in recent postseason histories. His efforts fueled a fourth-quarter rally which saw the Grizzlies win Game 5 111-109 and a 3-2 series lead.
Morant's last heroics started with an emphatic driving highlight in the final seconds. Minnesota Timberwolvesguard Malik BeasleyFedEx Forum to send an electric current. Morant and his teammates were able to get up from their miserable first 36 minutes of basketball by the slam.
“I always get a great view of his dunks,” Grizzlies big-man Brandon Clarke said. “I was right there. “I was right there. This is a great play to get us excited and can get us moving.
Morant scored 18 points during the fourth quarter, which ignited his team and the Grizzlies roared to a second major comeback in this series. Although the 11-point gap was not as large as the 21-point Memphis victory in Game 3, Morant's performance had greater repercussions for a team desperate for a great display from its star.
Morant had 20 points, 10.8 assists and 7.8 rebounds, along with 3.8 turnovers. In the four first games of the series, he shot 50.4% true. Although he had led the Grizzlies in Game 2 and used the pressure from Minnesota to find teammates, he struggled to strike a balance between speed & control.
This was Morant's experience over the first 36 minutes of Tuesday night. Morant had already scored 10 points, shooting 4-for-12 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the foul line prior to the dunk that ended quarter 3. FedEx Forum fans cheered for Morant at the stripe after he missed his first three free throws. Morant subsequently made his fourth attempt.
In the fourth quarter, Morant played 12 minutes. He staged a personal comeback that sparked a teamwide rally. The Grizzlies defeated the Timberwolves by 37-24. Sixteen of Morant’s 18 points were scored in the final six minutes.
He was relentlessly attacked by a Minnesota defense that was throwing multiple bodies at him. He made 10 attempts to get at the line in quarter one, and converted nine of them. With just over a minute left in the game, the Grizzlies trailing two to one, he drained his fourth 3-pointer in the series in 15 attempts to give them a one point lead.
Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies coach said that he was “impossible” in light of his previous struggles. He just smiled. “I took that shot a million times.” I replied, “You're going make the next one.” Just keep shooting, keep attacking.' This is what playoff basketball is all about. You don't know when you'll win. You just keep chipping away. It will come. He had an amazing fourth quarter.
Timberwolves Wing Anthony EdwardsA 3-pointer bomb by a slugger tied the game at 109 to 109 Dillon BrooksThe Grizzlies inbound the ball. Edwards protected Morant but bet on a pass from the high side. Morant was able to use the deflection to gain a path into the paint. He led the NBA's scoring with 4.8 points per game. As he met Minnesota forward Jarred VanderbiltMorant positioned himself in the lane and held the basketball between both his hands. He then contorted clockwise, lurching towards the glass with a left handed scoop. Morant's gymnastic skills won the game with one second remaining.
Morant answered the question “Go get a bucket Ja” when asked how he would describe the final possession.
There were many pleasantries in the high-stakes match between two young, brash teams.
After scoring a goal over Morant in quarter four, the Minnesota guard was able to take control of the game. Patrick BeverleyMorant responded by making a taunting gesture on the floor, saying that he was “too small”. Morant replied with a floater that he smashed through multiple defenders 15 seconds later. Then he responded with his own “too little”
After a failed heave by the Minnesota center, the last buzzer sounded. Karl-Anthony TownsClarke and Morant, who both scored 21 points while leading Grizzlies in just minutes, embraced. Clarke was asked by Morant what he shared with Clarke during the moment of celebration.
Clarke told Morant, “Thank God that we got you.” “Thank God that your are as good and as smart as you are,” Clarke stated to Morant.