LOS ANGELES: Desmond Bane scored 23 points as the Memphis Grizzlies stunned the Minnesota Timberwolves with another late fourth-quarter rally to score a series-clinching 114-106 victory in the NBA playoffs on Friday. Bane made nine of 15 shots from the field including a crucial go-ahead three-pointer late in the fourth quarter as the second seeds completed a 4-2 series win to silence Minnesota’s Target Center crowd in Minneapolis.
It was another shattering loss for Minnesota, who for the third time in the series were unable to close out a victory after building a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Minnesota had pulled into an 84-74 lead at the end of the third quarter but were blown away down the stretch by the Grizzlies, who outscored the Timberwolves 40-22 in the final period to snatch a dramatic win.
Bane nailed a three-pointer to give Memphis their first lead of the second half while Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 points in the fourth to help the Grizzlies get over the line. Memphis star Ja Morant had been effectively bottled up by the Minnesota defense in the first half with just four points, but ultimately finished with 17 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. The Grizzlies now face a mouthwatering Western Conference semi-final series against the resurgent Golden State Warriors starting on Sunday.
“It’s big-time for us man, super excited,” Morant said afterwards. “We got it done. It was ugly but we battled through, battled back and got the win. We got the four wins, but we’ve got to be better in the next round-we can’t come out again like we did in this series.” Morant said the Grizzlies’ ability to overturn a hefty fourth-quarter deficit once again was testimony to the resilience of his team.
“We’ve got a lot of dogs on this team, guys who want to prove stuff, and have got a chip on their shoulder,” Morant said. “We’ve got that never-satisfied mindset and we know that the game’s not over until the clock is showing all zeroes at the end of the fourth. We just stick together, battle back and we were able to come out with some big-time wins. We’ll enjoy this moment in the locker room tonight and then we’ll flip the page and start getting ready for Golden State.”
Bane said the latest in a series of Memphis Houdini acts was too close for comfort. “I don’t want to be in that hole, I promise you,” Bane said. “We don’t mind it but we’d like to start games a little bit better. “Our resiliency really showed in this series. I think pretty much every game we won we were trailing at some point. It’s a gritty group.”
Bane’s 23-point haul was matched by 23 from Dillon Brooks, while Jackson Jr. finished with 18. Morant and Brandon Clarke finished with 17 points apiece, Tyus Jones chipping in with 10 points off the bench. Anthony Edwards led the Minnesota scorers with 30 points while Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 with 10 rebounds and four assists. Jaden McDaniels added 24 off the bench. – AFP