WHAT: 2022 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference 1st Round Game Five (Series tied 2-2)
WHEN: 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: FedEx Forum—Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
BETTING INFORMATION (per DraftKings): Memphis (-6), Over/Under 232.5—
MEMPHIS: Santi Aldama (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, back)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Xavier Tillman, Jaren Jackson Jr.
MINNESOTA: Patrick Beverley, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, Karl-Anthony Towns
The first round series between the Grizzlies and Timberwolves has been extremely competitive and is arguably the most exciting of the 2022 NBA playoffs. After a 26 point comeback win in game three, the Grizzlies lost to Minnesota by one in game four, tying the series at 2-2. After the game, Taylor Jenkins criticized officials after a 40 to 25 free throw attempt advantage in favor of the Timberwolves, resulting in a $15k fine.
Historically, the team that wins game five of a series tied 2-2 wins the series 82% of the time. So, it is safe to say this is the most important game of the season so far for both of these teams. Here’s what the Grizzlies must do to take a 3-2 series lead.
Keep Jaren Jackson Jr. on the floor
In all of the first four games, Jaren Jackson Jr. has struggled with foul trouble. Jackson had improved with his fouling but it is still the most frustrating part of his game. Through 4 games, Jackson has averaged less than 24 minutes per game and has not been able to make his usual impact on either end of the floor. Some of his fouls are inevitable as the team’s primary rim protector, but he has to be smarter when it comes to offensive fouls and fouls away from the ball. It is difficult for Jaren to get into a rhythm offensively while sitting on the bench - through the series he has averaged just 10 points per game on 38% FG.
The Grizzlies are at their best with Jackson on the floor. His ability to erase shots on defense and switch onto perimeter players takes the Grizzlies defense to another level, which is needed against this talented Timberwolves team. He has been very effective defensively in his minutes, but his impact is nullified sitting next to Coach Jenkins on the bench.
Starting Well Defensively
Despite the loss, the Grizzlies got off to their best start of the series in game 4 but still went down as much as 15 before halftime. The Grizzlies have outplayed the Timberwolves in the 2nd half of every game but have had double digit deficits before halftime in 3 of 4 contests. The only game in which the Grizzlies led after the first quarter was game two, which they won by 28 points.
The Grizzlies have settled into their defensive game plan later in the game but the focus has to be there from the opening tip. The Timberwolves take a lot of tough shots, but if players like Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony-Towns get into a good rhythm early the Wolves are tough to stop. The Grizzlies also have to guard the 3-point line better overall, in the last game the Wolves were 18-36 from the three including four from Patrick Beverly.
Feed Bane and Clarke
Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke have been the two most consistent players for the Grizzlies this postseason. Bane became just the third player in NBA history to hit 7 or more threes in back to back playoff games, the other two are Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Bane has shown the ability to create his own shot and has benefitted from Morant’s assists out of constant double teams. When a shooter of Bane’s caliber is as hot as he is right now, the Grizzlies focus should getting him the ball as much as possible.
Brandon Clarke has also been a revelation for the Grizzlies especially since Jackson has been in foul trouble so often. For the series he is averaging 17 points on 72% shooting and has been great defensively as well off the bench. One thing to watch for this game is how coach Taylor Jenkins handles his minutes, it would not be surprising to see him in the starting lineup.
With Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. both struggling to score, Bane and Clarke have been even more important than in the regular season. However, the Grizzlies will also need their stars to play better in game 5 to head back to Minnesota with a 3-2 lead.
The Grizzlies have made bouncing back a part of their identity all season, especially at home. Young teams feed off the energy of their home crowds and the Grizzlies have done just that all season with a 30-11 record in FedEx Forum. If the Grizzlies lock into the defensive game plan and stay out of foul trouble, they should be able to take command of the series at home.