NBA fans didn’t need more proof that Ja Morant is one of the game’s most exciting talents, but they got it.
Morant, who had struggled throughout, sent the playoffs into a tailspin and set his team on fire, with what was described as one of the best poster dunks of all time, before heading into the the clutch to help his team secure a crucial come-on. -from-behind 111-109 game five win over Minnesota, to take a 3-2 series lead.
Morant stole the show in the third quarter with an epic run to the holeshot, when he got the better of Wolves’ Malik Beasley to drive the ball into the basket with ferocity.
READ MORE: Nick Kyrgios hits back after being slammed for celebrity behavior
READ MORE: Siosifa Talakai’s ‘devastating’ performance could come back to haunt Sharks
READ MORE: Italy makes historic decision in football
“I wasn’t that excited about the dunk…it was on one guard. It’s pretty easy,” Morant said after the game.
Morant and the Grizzlies weren’t at their best, but they got the job done against a stubborn Minnesota team.
Morant scored on a layup with a second left, and Memphis rallied 11 points in the fourth quarter to edge the Timberwolves.
Morant, named the NBA’s most improved player this week, struggled tremendously for most of the game. But he turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points – including nine of 10 from the free throw line.
Morant came from the low post as the Grizzlies swarmed the ball with 3.7 seconds left and lost Anthony Edwards at the top of the key. It left him with an open path in the paint that he’s so rarely had in this series, beating Jarred Vanderbilt with his left hand to a sneaky layup.
Morant finished with 30 and had 13 rebounds and nine assists. Desmond Bane added 25 points, and Brandon Clarke had 21 off the bench for Memphis, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 before committing a foul.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Edwards had 22, and D’Angelo Russell added 12 and Taurean Prince 10.
The Timberwolves led 99-88 with 6:58 remaining after three free throws from Towns and Jackson fouling for the second straight game. The Grizzlies responded with a 10-0 run to set up a thrilling finish to what had been a lousy game with lots of mediocre shooting.
Edwards tied it at 109 for Minnesota with a three with 3.7 seconds left. That set up Morant for the final drive to the game-winning basket.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was fined $15,000 for criticizing the refereeing after Game 4, a 119-118 win over Minnesota. This time around, his Grizzlies reached the free throw line more than Minnesota — they just didn’t shoot well once there, going 26 of 39 to Minnesota’s 21 of 24.
The Grizzlies opened the game on a 13-2 streak and looked like the highest seeded team in franchise history.
Then Jackson got his second of three fouls from Patrick Beverley and went to the bench. The Timberwolves, the NBA’s best three-point shooting team in the regular season, started knocking down shots, passing seven of 11 from the arc and leading 31-28 late in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a different story, with Minnesota hitting just one of nine out of the arc and leading 55-53 at halftime.
Minnesota outscored Memphis 30-21 in the third, but Morant capped off the quarter with a windmill dunk that helped give the Grizzlies some much-needed energy.
timber wolves: Russell came in 17 of 55 overall and nine of 24 from beyond the arc in this series. He knocked down his first two shots on Tuesday, a pair of straight threes, and finished two for four for three and four for 10 from the floor. … Beverley had her first playoff four-point play at 8:14 of the first quarter.
Grizzlies: Bane got a technical in the second quarter for shoving Timberwolves coach Chris Finch. Bane also opened the game with his 20th 3-pointer in this series. … Ziaire Williams played four minutes and did not finish the game with pain in his right knee.
IN THE CROWD
Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph were former Grizzlies in attendance with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Kentucky coach John Calipari sat by the Timberwolves bench. Alex Rodriguez, a co-owner from Minnesota, was also present, and Usher was also present, seated next to Morant’s father, Tee.
For a daily dose of the best news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by by clicking here!
The 20 highest paid stars in the NBA