The NBA's first-round playoff series took place between the Memphis GrizzliesAnd Minnesota TimberwolvesIt has the potential to be an all-time great.
We've seen young stars. Ja MorantAnd Anthony EdwardsYou can take your games to new heights. literally, in Morant's case — Karl-Anthony TownsLet it fly from deep, and some major rallies which have swung series momentum through five exciting games.
What's in Store for Friday's 6th Game (9 p.m. ET, ESPNMinneapolis:
Will the Grizzlies continue to experiment in different defensive matchups against Towns and will they be able to do so? Will Jaren Jackson Jr. be able keep out of trouble? Edwards has made a remarkable playoff debut. What could Edwards do to make it more entertaining? What are you waiting for? courtside trash talkWill there be a trade between Tee Morant & Karl Towns Sr.
As the Grizzlies try to defeat the Timberwolves and reach the Western Conference semifinals, the NBA experts are breaking down their stories.
MORE: NBA playoff matchups, schedules and news
Can KAT make a comeback in the Minnesota series?
Karl-Anthony Towns’ production is the most important factor in Grizzlies – Wolves. Minnesota's win has seen Towns score 31 points per game and attempt 17.5 shots. This drops to 17 PPG in three losses and nearly half the attempts (8.7).
The Memphis defense is not the only factor in this game. Towns' foul trouble, five in each of the Wolves losses, has limited him to just 35 minutes compared to the 42+ minutes he's played in his two wins. This is especially true for Minnesota's security guards. D'Angelo RussellFailing to find Towns in favorable conditions.
Yet, it was remarkable to see the Grizzlies' reaction during their Game 5 fourth-quarter comeback. Jackson fouled out, sending Towns to the line to take three shots with 6 minutes to go. With the Timberwolves leading 11 at the time, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins decided that he would play small. He sent four perimeter players to the court. Brandon ClarkeHe gave a 6-foot-7 wing Dillon BrooksThe task of defending the Towns at 6'11” was assigned, after they had already scored 25.
Brooks won 11 half-court matches against Towns. Towns only attempted two shots, according to Second Spectrum tracking. One of those attempts was a 3-pointer. In the final seven minute, Minnesota was outscored 23-10 by the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies won and held a 3-2 advantage in the series.
Brooks did great work with leverage to prevent Towns' from establishing post position. But there are more things the Timberwolves could do to capitalize on this size mismatch. They played Towns at the elbow, which was what they had some success with. Towns wasn't keen to switch so Russell made a sharp cut to Towns. Towns was able knock down an open 3 thanks to the resulting ball movement.
The Grizzlies repelled a second attempt at the same play with Desmond BaneTowns will kick the ball away to make a turnover. Towns and Towns will handoff. Jordan McLaughlinSet up the Edwards corner 3, which tied the game just before Morant’s game-winning layup.
Friday night will show us if Brooks's decision to put Towns on Brooks was a desperate move by Jenkins or a strategy that he will use again. Minnesota's offense will be better prepared if that is the case.
— Kevin Pelton
Jaren Jackson Jr. will he be allowed to remain on the court?
For a team to be successful in the playoffs, they need top talent. Talent wins big series. While Morant's electric offense paces the Grizzlies, Jackson Jr. is building the résumé to be one of those strong number 2s. Memphis believed it when they signed Jackson Jr. to a four year extension worth $105million last October.
He's, however, one of the most underachievers in the postseason.
Jackson, a candidate for All-Defensive Team, has been a solid help defense and the Grizzlies give up a stingy 101.6 point per possession when he is on the floor. Not bad for 14 blocks. The problem is that he cannot stay on the floor. In five games against Minnesota, his foul trouble has resulted in him averaging 22.6 minutes per match.
Jackson has been a cipher throughout the series. Jackson has accumulated 26 personal fouls, but only 18 field goals. Jackson is a Grizzlies 4-man and Jackson is known for his stretch in the halfcourt. This is vital for a team like the Grizzlies, where Ja Morant needs to do his job.
Minnesota has happily omitted to account for Jackson outside the arc. Why? Jackson is shooting just 31.8% at 3 while Morant is attacking and painting the paint with impunity.
Jackson does not excel in other areas of being a big man on the half court. Jackson is not a good screener, roller or high-post facilitator. He's a solid block threat but Memphis' offense doesn’t prioritise posting up. Not when Morant acts as the catalyst.
Jackson and the Grizzlies have to find a way to make Jackson a valuable offensive player. They need more than just putbacks and occasional 3-pointers.
He is undoubtedly a valuable defensive player, he is the Grizzlies' linchpin. But not if he is checking out of the match prematurely for foul trouble.
Jackson is needed by the Grizzlies to end this series and, if necessary, against the Golden State WarriorsIn the second round. He is obliged to meet that need.
— Kevin Arnovitz
What version of Ant Man will be on the screen?
It's easy for people to forget that Anthony Edwards is only 20 years old. He is also on the cusp of his sixth career post-season game. His scoring abilities are amazing, but his inexperience is just as impressive.
Game 5 was a microcosm illustrating these diametrical views.
Edward hit a game-tying three pointer that tied the match at 109 to 109 with only seconds to spare. He was a poor defender against one the most explosive offensive players on the court. Morant's game winning layup gave the Grizzlies a 3-2 lead.
There are clear distinctions in Edwards’ play when you look at the Timberwolves' wins. He shot at least 50% in both Wolves wins, has at most six free throw attempts, and has a total five blocks and three steals.
He has been less efficient in their losses and is letting the Grizzlies defend off the hook by settling on jumpers.
Edwards was the best player at both ends of the court during Minnesota's wins. Ant Man is needed to demonstrate his superpowers for the Wolves in Game 6 and the series.
— Jorge Sedano
Will Desmond Bane keep his second surge?
Have you heard of the Short King?
Bane is 6'5″ and does not qualify for the popular term of endearment meant for men around 5'9 and below.
But a short-armed king? That's the category Bane was created for.
The Grizzlies' second year guard is one the few NBA players who has a negative wingspan. That means his wingspan is less than your height. He stands at 6-foot-4.25. Bane dropped to No. This measurement was a major reason why Bane fell to No. 30 in the 2020 draft.
Bane has been improving rapidly, even though he is two years removed from the draft day drop.
Bane is quietly leading the Grizzlies scoring this series with 23.6 point per game. This is five points more than he averaged during the regular season (18.2).
Morant's regular season, in which he almost doubled his scoring average compared to his rookie season was so impressive that he tried to give his Most Improved Player award earlier this week to his teammate.
Desmond Bane watches Ja Morant leave his Most Improved player award in Bane’s kitchen.
Bane's performance in the playoffs is more impressive than ever. Bane is scoring these extra points by using a lower percentage of his playoffs usage (21.2%) than in the regular season (23.1%)
Bane launched 9.4 3-pointers per series, 2.5 more than in the regular season. He also hit at 46.8%. He was a member of the following series: Stephen CurryAnd Klay ThompsonAs the only NBA player to make seven or more 3-pointers consecutively in a playoff game.
Bane is an expert at creating space through footwork, pump fakes and step-backs dribbles. His sub-optimal arm length doesn't hinder any of these. Bane isn't the only one. Miami Heat‘s Tyler HerroAnother current playoff contributor has a negative wingspan. ESPN's JJ Reick, on the other hand, played his 14-year NBA basketball career in the same manner.
Bane is almost surrounded by his own team. Brandon Clarke is flourishing in his second playoffs (16.4 point and 8.6 rebound) while sporting a wingspan exactly matching his 6-foot-8.25 frame.
Bane used his big arms to push Minnesota coach Chris Finch along the sideline. He was also given a technical foul. It is possible that Wolves fans may pay Bane more attention in Game 6.
— Israel Gutierrez