Ja Morant scored 23 points and handed out 10 assists as the Memphis Grizzlies looked much more like the team that posted the NBA’s second-best record, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-96 on Tuesday night to even up their first-round Western Conference series at 1 apiece.
Morant went to the bench with 4:40 left to a huge ovation. He finished a rebound shy of a triple-double. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 16 with Jackson hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range as the Grizzlies set a franchise-record for largest margin of victory in the postseason.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins stated Morant was phenomenal along with the bench outscoring Minnesota 60-43. “This is our recipe …,” Jenkins said. “But this is the more the style that we got to play.”
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Seven Grizzlies ended in double figures with Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Ziaire Williams each having 13. Tyus Jones added 10.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.
Anthony Edwards, who scored 36 points in his playoff debut in Game 1, led Minnesota with 20. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Naz Reid and Taurean Prince had 12 each off the bench, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.
The Timberwolves dominated the series opener after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.
This time, officials stayed very busy calling 20 fouls in a very long first quarter. That kept the NBA’s top scoring teams in the regular season from getting into any rhythm as they combined to shoot 33 free throws.
At one point, Memphis had Steven Adams, Jackson, Clarke and Dillon Brooks on the bench with two fouls. That forced coach Taylor Jenkins to turn to Tillman who didn’t play in Game 1, and he turned in the best playoff game of his young career.
The Grizzlies grabbed their biggest lead of this short series at 30-23 on a floater by Jones with 2:11 left, and they led 33-32 after the first quarter when Morant’s long buzzer-beater attempt hit off the rim and off.
“Then our offense just dried up. Our shot selection in the second quarter basically started the avalanche,” said Minnesota coach Chris Finch, who added that the Grizzlies also started controlling the glass. “That’s really where the game was won.”
Memphis started running in the second and opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished on an 11-5 run for a 60-49 lead at halftime with Morant not scoring a point. Patrick Beverley summed up Minnesota’s struggles when his layup before the buzzer rolled off the rim.
The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 27 with a 25-9 run in the third, and Morant scored 12 in the quarter hitting 5 of 7 shots, including both 3-pointers.
His layup gave Memphis a 87-60 lead with 4:15 to go in the third, and the Grizzlies led 96-77 going into the fourth. Minnesota was the NBA’s best-shooting team outside the arc and outscored Memphis 48-21 in Game 1 as the Grizzlies shooting 26% outside the arc with only three knocking down a 3-pointer.
This time, Memphis shot 11-of-34 with six Grizzlies knocking down at least one.
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