MINNEAPOLIS – Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies arrived in Minnesota, determined to seize control of the series from a young, confident Timberwolves team that looks and acts a lot like them.
The Grizzlies are growing up a lot faster.
Desmond Bane made seven 3-pointers and had 26 points and Memphis overcame a 26-point deficit to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-95 on Thursday night for a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“We found a way to get some stops. Our offense started clicking a little bit more," Bane said, “and the rest is history.”
The Grizzlies tied their franchise record for the biggest comeback victory, down by 26 early in the second quarter. They were also down by 25 late in the third.
Brandon Clarke scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half for Memphis, which closed the game on a staggering 50-16 run over the final 15:10.
“That's why we're really the deepest team in the league,” said Ja Morant, who had the franchise's first postseason triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — and told his team afterward he needed to play better.
Tyus Jones hit two dagger 3-pointers against his former team down the stretch to finish with 11 points for the Grizzlies, who seized back home-court advantage from a stunned Wolves team that won Game 1 on the road 130-117 and took an ugly 124-96 loss in Game 2.
Game 4 is on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
“No one said it as going to be easy. We don't want it to be easy. We want it to be extremely hard, and it was,” said Patrick Beverley, who had 14 points for the Wolves.
The Wolves were outscored 23-12 in the second quarter and 37-12 in the fourth, pitifully putting to waste some superb basketball in the first and third periods.
“When we get too high, it comes back and it haunts us,” said D'Angelo Russell, who had 22 points and eight assists as the key driver of Minnesorta's third-quarter surge.
Russell went 0 for 3 and was scoreless in the fourth. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota's other max-contract player, had another clunker on offense with eight points, five fouls and only four shots.
“It's really tough. We've got to regroup,” said Towns, who had five blocks.
After taking a 47-21 lead early in the second quarter with a deafening roar in the 32-year-old downtown arena as the soundtrack, the Wolves were outscored 15-0 over the final 5:45 of the second quarter.
After the NBA's highest-scoring team made only 30 field goals in Game 2 to match a season low, the Wolves hit only 33 in Game 3. They went 8:34 of game time between the second and third quarters without a basket until Russell made a 3.
Jones, who grew up in the Twin Cities and was drafted by the Timberwolves the same year as Towns, hit a 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies their first lead at 86-85. Memphis never trailed again.
“You think of and dream of those moments," said Jones, who won a state championship at Target Center for Apple Valley High School in 2013.
Towns had just six points over the final three quarters of Game 2, and after coach Chris Finch implored him to play a “cleaner game” the two-time All-Star center struggled again. Towns picked up his fifth foul with 9:24 left and spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench.
“They swarm him everywhere,” Finch said.
The Wolves took a 12-0 lead, before Bane finally put the Grizzlies on the board with a 3, as the “Defense!” chants ramped up a few decibel levels for just the third home playoff game here in the last 18 years.
The home team could hardly do any wrong for the first 15 minutes of game time, as evidenced by Beverley's tip-in of his own miss for a 49-28 lead midway through the second quarter. He slipped as he drove toward the lane, kept his dribble alive from a near-seated position and flung a desperate floater at the basket.
“We seemed kind of shook,” Clarke said, “but it's a very, very long game.”
The Grizzlies used a 23-4 run over the final 10:28 of the second quarter to make a game of this. Russell was called for a charge with 3:21 to go on his drive and banked-in layup that would've given the Wolves a 17-point lead. The challenge by Finch was for naught, and the Wolves missed three 3-pointers and a layup over the rest of the half.
Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson started for the Grizzlies in place of Steven Adams, who didn't leave the bench. ... Jaren Jackson Jr. scored just six points and had five fouls.
Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards had 19 points and seven rebounds in 40 minutes. ... Russell went 5 for 22 from the field in the first two games. He was 9 for 21 in Game 3.
Towns and Morant each had their fathers cheering them on from courtside seats again — and this time the two friends were right next to each other. Tee Morant watched through designer sunglasses beneath a black bucket hat. Karl Towns, who wore a dark blue Timberwolves hat and a black KN95 mask, helped the arena hype men by tossing T-shirts into the crowd during a timeout.
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