What. A. Comeback.
I’m not going to lie, I had started on the Report Card about halfway through the third. It looked as if the Minnesota Timberwolves were just too good and it would be OK to prepare for Game 4.
Twitter was a mess, my texts not much better, and I kept doing new Tuohy math in my head to figure out just how much the Grizzlies needed to cut it down to before the 4th quarter.
Then something happened, the Grizzlies we had seen for the majority of the 82 games in the regular season showed up. They were forcing turnovers, making Minnesota take bad shots, capitalizing on the Timberwolves mistakes and getting the 50-50 balls. All of that, combined with the playoff pressure, and the T-wolves couldn’t respond.
While I credit Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke for leading the comeback, it was an entire team effort. But, some guys were better than other in the win.
Now its time to hand out some grades.
Ja Morant — 16 points (5-18 FG, 5-10 FTs), 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 7 turnovers — Grade: C-
While Ja did finish with a triple-double, he struggled for the majority of the game. The Timberwolves did a great job of frustrating him with Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley, and also dialing up and extending the pressure when he touched the ball across half court.
He also picked up two fouls quickly in the first quarter and didn’t get to the foul line once in the first half.
In saying all of that, the Grizzlies comeback wouldn’t have happened without Ja. In the last minute of the third quarter, Ja flipped a switch. He got to the line and only hit one of two FTs, but then was able to get a steal and back to the free throw line to make a pair. That sequence may seem small in the scheme of things, but it gave the Grizzlies momentum and confidence heading into the fourth where the Grizz took over.
In the fourth, it also looked as if the game had slowed down for Ja, as he was able to get whatever he wanted. If that’s Minnesota’s best game plan against Ja, they are in trouble, because he’s figured it out.
The Memphis Grizzlies are a hammer— Jackson Lloyd (@JacksonLloydNBA) April 22, 2022
Once Ja Morant gets dribble penetration, Karl-Anthony Towns is forced to contest, leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves exposed on the glass
Brandon Clarke capitalizes pic.twitter.com/UKQ0PWc7fh
Brandon Clarke — 20 points (6-9 FG, 8-8 FT), 8 rebounds — Grade: A
Brandon Clarke was sensational in the win and may have earned himself a spot in the starting lineup for Game 4. We have seen that Coach Taylor Jenkins is willing to tinker with the lineups if he feels its best for the team.
Clarke was thrust into more minutes, some because of Jaren’s foul troubles, and some by design. He earned the start in the second half in place of Kyle Anderson. Jenkins’ faith in Clarke was rewarded with him scoring 16 of his 20 points in the second half. Clarke was always there when Ja needed a dump off and was huge on the offensive glass in the fourth quarter. If he wasn’t grabbing the rebounds, he was getting a hand on it and doing what he could to keep the play alive.
It’s also worth noting that Clarke, who shot 65% from the free throw line this year was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Desmond Bane — 26 points (8-19 FG, 7-15 3PT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists — Grade: B+
Thank goodness for Desmond Bane in the first half. While most of the team couldn’t get a shot to fall, Bane was able to catch fire toward the end of the first half. He knocked down 5 3’s and scored 16 points. He also stayed aggressive all throughout and just kept pushing and pushing trying to make something happen.
He wasn’t able to carry the hot hand into the second half, missing all four of his shots in the third quarter, but picked it back up in the fourth, scoring 8 points.
Bane’s hot shooting is going to be needed for the Grizzlies if they are going to make a deep playoff run. If the Grizzlies finish off the Timberwolves, then Golden State will be waiting for them, and he provides your best chance to trade buckets.
Normally I only pick out a few and just summarize the rest of the performances under final grade. But it’s the Playoffs.
Jaren Jackson Jr — D: He has got to stay out of foul trouble. A few of them were unnecessary and happened away from the basket. Trip was able to play well when he was in the game, but he needs to be out there for that to happen.
Dillon Brooks — C-: Dillon was not good on offense. Besides his dagger three, DB had a pretty forgettable night shooting.
Kyle Anderson — B: Foul trouble and Kyle Anderson. Those are the two reasons KAT finished with just 8 points and was for the most part a non-factor on offense. It will be interesting to see if Jenkins goes with Clarke or Slo-Mo in Game 4.
It wasn’t pretty, but the final result sure is. For the most part, the Grizzlies struggled for the first 33 minutes and then the Grizzlies just dominated the last 15. Props to Head Coach Taylor Jenkins for making adjustments when needed and realizing that Steven Adams is more of a liability over a luxury in a series like this one.
He also realized that Tillman wasn’t giving you what you got in Game 2, so those minutes went to Clarke and Tyus in the second half. Speaking of Tyus, other than a few hiccups, he once again showed why he will be a coveted free agent in the offseason, knocking down some big shots and also giving the Memphis Grizzlies their first lead of the game with 7:09 left in the fourth.
Final Grade: B-
Next Up: Game 4 Saturday Night in Minnesota at 9 PM.