The series is tied at 2 as the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves return to Bluff City for a pivotal Game 5. As Ja Morant proclaimed on Twitter, it’s a 3-game series now. There are reasons for optimism and concern for the Grizzlies, as they return to their home floor to regain control of the series.
Looking on the bright side, whenever Memphis is locked in it’s quite evident that the Grizzlies and Timberwolves are on two totally different tiers. After dropping Game 1 at home, they roared back for a resounding 28-point victory. Then, they blitzed the Timberwolves to go on a thunderous 50-13 run to erase a 26-point deficit in the second half of Game 3. All that has led to the Grizzlies possessing a point differential of +23 this series. If they stay focused, this series could be over in 2 convincing games.
For those with (valid) concern, the Timberwolves have used their physicality and perimeter onslaught to make this a difficult challenge for the 2nd-seed Grizzlies. Aside from Game 2, the Grizzlies have trailed for all but 17 minutes in this series — also falling behind by at least 13 or more in all of those games. That’s terrifying for the outlook of these next 2 to 3 games.
Minnesota deserves credit for how they’ve played; they’ve had the Grizzlies number on both sides of the ball. It’s also true that Memphis has also lacked the necessary urgency and consistency for the majority of this series — straying away from the Grizzlies standard in that regard.
Like adjustments that can be made over the course of a playoff series, the energy level could shift as well. The Grizzlies could very well return to their high level of play to close this series out. However, if the urgency and consistency stay where it’s been these past 4 games, members of Grizz Nation have every reason to sweat in the final games of this matchups.
So, as Game 5 is on the horizon, there are players that are hitting their strides to ensure postseason success. Some Grizzlies are struggling, and their ability to turn it around is pretty vital to the team’s potential outcome over the next week.
The hottest trend in Memphis right now is...Desmond Bane
If no one was paying attention to the season Desmond Bane was having, they’re well aware of who he is — and just how good he is — right now. And my goodness, Bane was a major factor for the Grizzlies up in Minnesota.
Bane scored 26 and 34 points in Games 3 and 4, while making 15 three’s over the past 2 games. Over the course of the series, he’s averaged 23.3 points on 48.4/48.7/87.5 shooting splits and on 15.5/9.8/4.0 volume splits. He’s currently trailing only Klay Thompson for made 3’s this postseason (19), and he’s scoring a scorching 136.8 points per 100 shot attempts — per Cleaning the Glass.
Desmond Bane is taking the “let it fly” mantra to a whole other level, and it’s been a big boost for the Grizzlies halfcourt offense. He’s lighting the nets on fire and launching 3’s with a supreme amount of confidence and in a variety of ways — spot up, pull up, through sets, and with a lightning-quick release.
Now, will Desmond Bane keep making 7 three’s per game over the rest of the series? No — but a whole new conversation surrounding his ceiling will be sparked. However, his outside shooting will remain pivotal for the team’s success in this series, as he’s shown over the past 2 games. As the Timberwolves are collapsing on Ja Morant’s drives, the Grizzlies need to make them pay by kicking out to open shooters. Bane’s marksmanship will open up the floor for the team’s All-Star point guard, while giving Taylor Jenkins offensive diversification on play calling.
Surely Minnesota will adjust to his hot shooting. They can throw bigger defenders at him, or throw traps at him at certain spots around the perimeter to force him to cough up the ball. It could go either way for Memphis: it could decrease Bane’s offensive efficiency, or it can open up opportunities for his teammates to find their scoring rhythm.
Or Desmond Bane can keep scorching the earth offensively, while carrying a heavy offensive responsibility for the Grizzlies. That’s entirely possible too.
There’s the dialogue around “82-game” and “16-game” players. When evaluating one of the youngest teams in the league in this postseason environment, you’re heavily monitoring who’s built for these moments and who isn’t during these games. Bane is showing that he’s built for playoff basketball, and that he can swing the pendulum of these games with his outside shooting.
Others Trending Up
- Brandon Clarke. Brandon Clarke has been the Grizzlies best big man this postseason. That could be seen as an indictment on other’s performances, but the reserve big man deserves a lot of praise for how he’s balled out over the past 4 games. He’s averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting 72.7% from the field on 8.3 attempts per game. He’s absolutely punished the Timberwolves inside, particularly in pick-and-roll situations. Whenever the team has experienced success in this series, Clarke has played a huge role in that. He may not be the starting 4 right now, but there isn’t any reason (beyond foul trouble) why he shouldn’t be playing closer to 32-35 minutes a game from here on out.
- Tyus Jones. Tyus Jones has scored double digits in each of the past 3 games, and he’s also the only Grizzly that hasn’t had a negative plus/minus in this postseason. His scoring and outside shooting (7-11 from 3, 63.6%) have played a huge role in that, but he’s also doing a great job of continuing to move the basketball. As long as Ja Morant isn’t at 100%, Taylor Jenkins needs to deploy more two-guard lineups to have Jones alleviate playmaking responsibilities off their star guard.
The Not Quite Downward Spiral: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Karl-Anthony Towns received a lot of shade going into Game 4 for his postseason performance thus far. This tweet particularly stood out:
KAT this postseason— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 22, 2022
Play-in: More fouls than baskets
Game 2: More fouls than baskets
Game 3: More fouls than baskets pic.twitter.com/UBxN1iCyMH
Meanwhile, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s numbers this series follow that trend. Aside from a stellar Game 2 performance, Jackson has disappointed.
- Game 1: 5 fouls, 4 field goals
- Game 3: 5 fouls, 2 field goals
- Game 4: 6 fouls, 3 field goals
The foul trouble has been an issue. There’s blame around — a quick, inconsistent whistle from the officials, and Taylor Jenkins’ substitution pattern regarding Jackson’s foul trouble. Jackson deserves a slice of that blame pie though. His discipline hasn’t been as sharp as it was in the regular season, resorting back to old patterns in a sense.
When the foul trouble hits, it takes Jackson out of his rhythm. He’s out of his offensive flow — lacking balance on his drives, and missing open 3’s he has made in the past. It also makes him entirely less effective on defense, which is not ideal since he’s a DPOTY-level foundation on that side of the ball.
The Grizzlies cannot afford many playoff nights with Jackson playing as subpar as he’s been the majority of this series. Game 2 is a shining example of the impact he needs to make in these next 2-3 games. He was spacing the floor, defending across the half court, and leaving an imprint on successful basketball.
Taylor Jenkins and the Grizzlies coaching staff need to find ways to get Jackson going, whether it’s from downtown or on the low block. Jackson also needs to stay locked in and avoid decisions that remove him off the floor. His impact on both sides of the ball is too vital for this team going forward.
Others Trending in Wrong Direction
- De’Anthony Melton. It’s been a forgettable postseason for De’Anthony Melton. He’s shooting a putrid 16.7% from the field and 14.3% from 3 in only 11 minutes per game in this series. After a flaming hot shooting stretch in March, he’s cooled off in the worst way and his impact has tanked. If Taylor Jenkins pulled the plug on Melton’s minutes, it’d be understandable. However, when he gets going, he swings the game unlike anyone off the bench for the Grizzlies. It’s not just his shooting, but he also adds value as a rebounder — which is important with Steven Adams out of the fold — and as a defensive event creator. A return to his home floor could get Melton going from beyond the arc, but he’s running out of time to impact this series.
- A 10-man rotation. So, a 10-man rotation may not be the course of action going forward in this series. It’s a 3-game series, and the season is on the line. Foul trouble withstanding, Jenkins needs to play his best players as much as possible. In addition, there haven’t been 10 players consistently playing well. Aside from an awesome Game 2, Xavier Tillman has been fine. Ziaire Williams has had his moments, and he could be beneficial in spot minutes. Nonetheless, it’s go-time for the Grizzlies. It’s the playoffs. Play your best players as much time as possible. A potential solution: Morant-Bane-Brooks-Anderson-Jackson, Jones-Clarke-Williams, and then Adams or Tillman as your “foul trouble emergency big man.”
The Memphis Grizzlies are at its biggest point of adversity this season. These next 2 or 3 games determine whether or not the season ends in 6 days, or if it lasts another couple weeks. In this situation where they’re the favorites of this series, it’d be a disappointment if the worst-case scenario ensued this week.
Nonetheless, there is a foundation for this team to survive and advance onto the next round of the NBA postseason. It all starts with their urgency and consistency. They need to start stronger — especially Tuesday, don’t let Minnesota find a glimmer of daylight in that game. Not only do they need to weather the storm, but they need to find themselves in fewer storms as well.
If they can start with those areas that they can control, the Grizzlies standard could be the ripple effects — defense translating to offense, great pace, and punishing inside scoring. And from there, they could move on from this chaotic series with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Stats found on basketball-reference.com