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MikeCheck: Grizzlies eager to end T’Wolves series in six, ‘obviously don’t want seventh game’

MINNEAPOLIS – Ahead 3-2 in their first-round playoff series against the Timberwolves, conventional
wisdom suggests the Grizzlies have two chances to secure the one victory they need to advance.

Except there’s hardly been anything conventional about this series.

And none of the Grizzlies are buying into that bit of wisdom, either, as the scene shifts to Target Center for Game 6
on Friday with a shot to close out the Timberwolves.

In other words, the first step toward eliminating Minnesota requires the Grizzlies to eliminate any thought that they
have a subsequent decisive game Sunday in Memphis to fall back on.

If you have a chance to close out an opponent in a playoff series, you’ve got to try to take advantage. We don’t,
obviously, want this to go to a seventh game.

Tyus Jones

“You’re just trying to approach it – you don’t want to give a team like that any life,” Grizzlies guard Tyus
Jones
said of facing the Timberwolves in Game 6. “If you have a chance to close out an opponent in a
playoff series, you’ve got to try to take advantage. We don’t, obviously, want this to go to a seventh game.”

Desmond Bane #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies and Naz Reid #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves fight for the ball

Although historical statistics side with the Grizzlies in a situation such as this one, this series had been anything
but predictable through the first five games. Each team has already won once on the opponent’s home court. The
series has produced 258 total fouls called through five games – significantly more than any other current
first-round playoff matchup.

And drastic momentum swings have contributed to lopsided outcomes in the first two games. Then there was an epic,
26-point comeback victory by Memphis in Game 3, a one-point win by Minnesota in Game 4 and another rally from a
double-digit deficit by the Grizzlies to win Game 5 on Ja Morant’s layup with one second remaining.

Both teams remain confident they will prevail and win this series.

Neither team has yet to play a complete game to their potential.

But the No. 2-seeded Grizzlies have the luxury of homecourt advantage against the No. 7-seeded Timberwolves, and have
two opportunities to put this series away. Throughout NBA playoff history, 85 percent of teams holding a 3-2 lead
have gone on to win the series.

The Grizzlies didn’t return to Minnesota looking to take anything for granted.

We’re going to have to continue to build on each game. We did a great job from Game 4 to Game 5. The level of
urgency, physicality, focus and edge were tested. We’ve had it for spurts, but definitely not for 48 minutes for
both of those games. This time of the year, against a very competitive Timberwolves team, with a really good
offense, a good defense, good coaching (and) really good players, we’re going to need our best effort,
especially when you’re up 3-2.

Taylor Jenkins

The Grizzlies’ collective resolve have led to favorable results. One constant for Memphis in this series has been its
ability to finish strongly, which has twice allowed it to overcome double-digit deficits to squeeze out victories.

Coach Taylor Jenkins looks on during Round 1 Game 5

Case in point: the Grizzlies lead all NBA playoff teams so far in fourth quarter scoring with an average of 31.6
points in the final frame. Over the course of those final 12 minutes, they are outscoring the Timberwolves by an
average of 8.8 points in the frame, which is the second-largest disparity in fourth quarter scoring among all series
this postseason.

Morant’s theatrics in Game 5 provided the latest example of his team’s closing spurts. Winner of this season’s NBA
Most Improved Player award, Morant scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday as the
Grizzlies rallied to win from 13 points down.

But the Grizzlies would rather not continue flirting with danger. Friday’s mission is to take a more deliberate
approach from the outset instead of relying on a dominant charge at the finish.

Offensively, we’re pushing the pace, trying to get out and run, and that’s our best basketball – when we can get
out in transition, catch lobs and run.

Xavier Tillman

“Defensively, we’re pretty sound early (forcing) turnovers,” Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman said of
getting out to better starts. “Offensively, we’re pushing the pace, trying to get out and run, and that’s our best
basketball – when we can get out in transition, catch lobs and run.”

Memphis will likely be without one of its best lob finishers with rookie forward Ziaire
Williams
listed as doubtful for Game 6 with a knee soreness. Grizzlies center
Steven Adams, a starter this season who fell out of the rotation because of
matchup problems this series, was ruled out of Friday’s game while under the league’s health and safety protocols.

Jenkins was already on the verge of tinkering with a tighter rotation anyway and had primarily used seven players for
the second half of Tuesday’s win. Still, the Grizzlies remain committed to getting forward Jaren Jackson
Jr.
going after his struggles through the first five games of the series. He’s fouled out twice and is
averaging just 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22.6 minutes.

You’ve got to be better.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

“I’ve just got to play smarter – say all you want about (foul) calls, but you’ve got to be smarter and I’ve got to
own it myself,” Jackson said of taking accountability. “You’ve got to be better.”

Jenkins knows the Grizzlies can’t reach their potential – in this series or beyond – if Jackson isn’t available and
active on both ends of the floor, particularly as a defensive catalyst.

He’s still got to find a way. We’re big believers in what he can do for us. He’s just got to keep learning and
growing, knowing that he can have a significant impact on this series for us.

Taylor Jenkins

“Just keep trusting him, just keep telling him to keep putting in the work (and) that’s what we’re doing,” Jenkins
said of Jackson, who led the league in blocks this season and is a candidate for the NBA’s All-Defensive Team. “He’s
still got to find a way. We’re big believers in what he can do for us. He’s just got to keep learning and growing,
knowing that he can have a significant impact on this series for us.”

There’s no better time than now, as the Grizzlies look to put away the pesky Timberwolves.

Not give them too much life. Go ahead and come out and play hard. Play with energy. Start early.

Ja Morant

“We’ve just got to have that mindset that we had going into Game 2 and (take it) into Game 6,” Morant said of the
Grizzlies’ 124-96 blowout in Game 2 at home. “Not give them too much life. Go ahead and come out and play hard. Play
with energy. Start early.”

The Timberwolves are ones facing elimination in Game 6.

But to end this now, the Grizzlies must be the team playing with the most desperation.

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opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or
its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the
Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with
being an NBA accredited member of the media.