2022 Playoffs: West First Round | Grizzlies (2) vs. Timberwolves (7)

5 takeaways from Grizzlies' series-clinching win over Timberwolves in Game 6

Memphis showcased its depth and resiliency throughout the entire series. Both were on full display in the clincher.

Memphis overcomes a double-digit deficit in the 4th quarter again to close out Minnesota in Game 6.

Five takeaways from the Memphis Grizzlies’ victory in six games over the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first-round Western Conference playoff series, including their 114-106 victory Friday night at Target Center:  

1. Clarke is Memphis’ first-round MVP

Ja Morant pushed Desmond Bane as the Grizzlies’ Most Valuable Player in the series after Game 6, and his case was strong,  

“If you ask me, the MVP of this series would be this guy here,” Morant said, gesturing at Bane seated next to him. “Time and time again, he played big-time and made some big-time shots for us. Even kept us in the game [tonight] and gave us the lead.”  

Bane led Memphis in scoring (23.5 ppg) and his 27-of-56 shooting on 3-pointers (48%) was like a flurry of body blows whenever Minnesota starting breathing easily. Dillon Brooks scored 23 in the clincher and chased around Anthony Edwards for much of the series.

But Brandon Clarke, the Grizzlies’ 6-foot-7 backup forward from Gonzaga, seemed to give his team whatever it needed, whenever. Clarke had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the clincher and averaged 16.5 and 9.0 in big boosts from the regular season (10.4 and 5.3). Twenty-three of his rebounds came on the offensive glass, including five Friday.  

Brandon Clarke goes for 17 points and 11 rebounds to help Memphis advance to the semifinals.

“His energy and activity were phenomenal,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We don’t win the series without what he did. … The boost he gives us off the bench, he runs the floor, he’s just ‘Johnny on the spot’ wherever the ball is, a loose ball, an offensive rebound, a tap-out. His teammates have a lot of trust in him when he’s picking and rolling. … And defensively taking a lot of tough assignments – switching on the guards, guarding Towns for a good portion of the series.”  

Clarke was in the middle of a decisive bucket Friday, too, when Morant put the hockey assist in his hands and he passed to Jaren Jackson Jr. for the dunk that made it 108-104 with 36 seconds left.  

“Tons of credit to him,” Jenkins said. “He definitely elevated his game. He made a huge statement in the series.” 

2. Minnesota blew another 4th quarter lead

Never before in NBA playoff history had a team come back twice to win after trailing by 10 points or more in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies checked that box in Game 5, erasing an 11-point deficit in the final 6:48, after scrambling from 16 back in the final period of Game 3 

So when Memphis reset for the final 12 minutes Friday, down 84-74 on the road coping with a boisterous crowd and a multi-faceted Minnesota attack, the Grizzlies had to think: Got ‘em right where we want ‘em.  

It took just 100 seconds for Memphis to turn it into a one-possession game at 85-82. They tied it at 94-94 midway through the quarter on a three by Bane. The Grizzlies let Minnesota off the hook briefly when they got only one point out of a flagrant foul 1 situation with 3:46 left – Clarke made just one free throw and the Wolves rallied for their best defensive stand of the night to thwart three rapid-fire layup attempts.  

Closing out games was an issue for the Timberwolves. Still, this playoff experience should benefit them moving forward.

At 3:03, Bane hit another 3-pointer and Ja Morant streaked in for a layup that made it 103-99 with 2:25 to play. Minnesota, rushing and squandering three consecutive possessions around that same time, never led again. Everything Memphis had been doing right late in games, it did again. All that Minnesota had issues with closing quarters and games haunted it again.  

How bad was it? In the 18 quarters, one through three, of the six games, the Wolves outscored the Grizzlies 519-490. In the six fourth quarters, they got outscored 198-136, including 40-22 in the clincher.  

“Obviously the wins were pretty ugly outside of Game 2, but we got it done,” Morant said. 

It’s a resilient, if not risky, way to grind through a series and the Grizzlies know they flirted with trouble. Hard to blame them, though, considering how predictably the Wolves were in coughing up late leads like furballs.  

“Just deflating plays,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said of the multiple collapses. 

3. Welcome to the playoffs, JJJ 

Jaren Jackson Jr. couldn’t get traction for most of the series, saddling himself with fouls that had him on the bench more than the court through five games. But he stuck around for more than 34 minutes in the finale, scoring 18 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, sinking three treys and blocking a couple shots.  

“Yeah, it’s a good feeling being up,” said Jackson, whose father – a former NBA player – was in the house. “Still not satisfied. We’ve got to keep taking the good and bad with each game. Even when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, you gotta have the same approach, like even when it’s a good game, you gotta just learn from it.” 

Jaren Jackson Jr. finishes with 18 points and 14 rebounds in Memphis' Game 6 victory.

Jenkins got Jackson out midway through the first quarter with just one foul, avoiding his pattern of two early ones.  

“His activity on the defensive end, his discipline was really good,” the Memphis coach said. “He had a great stretch in the fourth quarter – loose balls, rebounds, verticality. … He just had a bounce-back game. Obviously a tough series for him but he kept plugging away, never got defeated.” 

4. Plenty of coachable moments for Minnesota

It’s too soon to issue a referendum on the Wolves’ season and status, but it’s safe to say the team took some strides through its tough lessons against Memphis. Towns took grief for shaky performances, then fired back to earn newfound respect for a guy with hardly any playoff resume. Anthony Edwards displayed his raw potential, even as his judgment and inconsistency helped swing games.  

Towns reflects on Minnesota's season and postseason run after the Wolves were eliminated by the Grizzlies in Game 6 of the first-round series.

Jalen McDaniels had a budding-star outing off the bench in Game 6 with 17 points, four 3-pointers and a rugged dunk right in Jackson’s face. The starting backcourt remains an issue, with Patrick Beverley past his prime as a full-time starter and irritant, while D’Angelo Russell seemed to shrink when the Wolves needed him most.  

“We’re still learning,” Finch said. “Playing in these high-leverage situations is huge for us. I thought composure-wise, again, we showed [a lack of] it in our shot selection in the fourth. It’s baked in our DNA right now. We know we have to learn from this, and we’re not all just gonna be able to save the day. 

“Moving forward, we’ll learn, and we’ll laugh, hopefully, grow from it.”  

5. Sleep fast, young Grizzlies

Knocking off Minnesota in six games rather than seven didn’t buy the victors a thing. They still face a matinee Sunday at FedEx Forum, only now it is Game 1 against the formidable Golden State Warriors (3:30 ET, ABC). That gave the Grizzlies about 39 hours from the final horn of one series to the opening tip of their Western Conference semifinals.  

“Go to sleep, wake up in the morning, travel,” Morant said while calling this series “draining.”  

What factors could be key in the Grizzlies-Warriors semifinal showdown?

The watchability of the next round should be tremendous. Golden State, actually seeded lower, starts on the road. It brings a new lethal lineup with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and Draymond Green featured in their series against Denver. Memphis found a pesky unit too when Jenkins used Morant, Tyus Jones, Bane, Brooks and Clarke in a small configuration against Minnesota.  

The Grizzlies just wrapped up their first series victory since 2015. The Warriors have been to five Finals and won three in that same timeframe.  

“Confidence doesn’t change though,” Jackson Jr. said. “We’re happy with the result, but we’ve always had a big picture since we’ve been playing with each other. It’s been a couple years now … We’ve always had goals of getting further than this. We never settled. Keep thinking forward. That’s the whole point.”  

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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