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

5 takeaways from Memphis' shocking Game 3 comeback win vs. Minnesota

The Grizzlies stun not only the Timberwolves, but also themselves, with a gutty double comeback to regain control of their first-round series.

Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and the Grizzlies complete a must-see comeback in Game 3 vs. Minnesota.

Five takeaways from the Memphis Grizzlies’ 104-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night at Target Center in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series:

1. Oh, to be a fly on the wall …

Can’t you just see it, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins using video of his team’s performance in the first quarter Thursday as a dozen different teachable moments, followed immediately by the Grizzlies’ turnaround over the next 12 minutes when Jenkins would have to shrug and note the resiliency of his guys. Followed by a third quarter in which he and his staff could raise their voices and freeze-frame a fleet of failings, only to turn around and beam like proud papas over what transpired down the stretch.

Memphis got blown out twice in Game 3, only to come back twice. The Grizzlies trailed 37-18 late in the first and by 26 early in the second. By halftime, though, the gap was just 51-44.

Then they did it again, falling behind by 25 points less than nine minutes into the third. And then, finally, racing all the way back with 21 unanswered points — from 83-62 to tie with 8:33 to play — and eventually a 16-7 finish to win comfortably and take a 2-1 edge in this best-of-seven series.

The Grizzlies went on a 21-0 run in the 4th quarter to as they completed the 4th-largest comeback in NBA Playoffs history.

Sometimes in sports, we say a certain victory or defeat counts double because of its impact. But in this case, it truly might. Memphis, once it sets aside the reason those big deficits were dug, can focus on the tenacity it showed in running down the Wolves.

“Usually when I’m down by 26, I end up losing by 30,” said Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, when asked to recall any similar comebacks in his history.

Said Memphis’ Desmond Bane: “I ain’t never been down 20 twice.”

Minnesota, meanwhile, might labor all the way into summer to shake the feeling that it squandered control of the series twice. It might never trust a big lead again, whenever it manages to get one again.

Coach Chris Finch acknowledged the shock to his players’ systems of stepping into that empty elevator shaft, then climbing 10 flights of stairs to do it again.

“I’m sure they did tense up,” the Wolves coach said. “We missed a lot of really good shots. Some of them looked tight. But I didn’t necessarily feel it. I thought we were still in the game.”

Desmond Bane on Game 3 comeback: 'It's an emotional victory'

The Wolves missed 10 of their first 11 shots in the fourth quarter. They shot 3-for-19 overall in that period, including 1-of-11 on 3s. They were outrebounded, 19-5, and outscored, 37-12.

By the way, if Minnesota reviews, rather than burns, its copy of the videotape, the players might want to grill Finch by pointing out the moments during Memphis’ 21-0 run across the third and fourth quarters when their coach might have, maybe (just for the heck of it?) called a timeout. To regroup a little or perhaps disrupt the Grizlies’ rhythm.

“Burned a lot early, so I was hoping that we would just be able to kind of get through to the fourth a little bit deeper,” Finch explained.

He still had a timeout on the board when this one ended.

2. The Twin Cities have a Towns problem

Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most talented big men in the NBA, now and arguably ever. He’ll have gotten a lot of All-NBA votes for the regular season just completed when those honors are announced. And let’s not forget how he won the 2022 MTN DEW 3-Point Contest at All-Star weekend, a crown Towns sought after and snagged in Cleveland two months ago, during a season in which he hit 41% of his 3-pointers.

Having said all that, the Timberwolves center is sputtering through a miserable, reputation-staining postseason.

After being a virtual no-show due to foul trouble in the Wolves’ Western Conference Play-In Tournament win vs. the Clippers, the 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick bounced back with 29 points and 13 rebounds in Minnesota’s rousing Game 1 victory. But he was mediocre in Game 2 and shrunk even from that performance in Game 3, finishing with just eight points (3-4 FGs), five rebounds, five blocks, five fouls in nearly 33 minutes.

Barkley: Wolves' Game 3 collapse 'embarrassing'

The big fellow has been in the league seven seasons, hungry for postseason opportunities like this. He sees a heavy diet of double-teams, it’s true, but passing out of them hasn’t translated into assists (five in three games). He needs to plant himself in the post, beguile Memphis’ defenders with his combination of power and strength but most of all, assert himself start to finish.

“They swarm him everywhere,” Finch said. “Three in the post, and at the top of the key, they’re in on him. We gotta find him in the flow, and that’s just how it’s gonna have to be.”

After Game 3, Towns talked about decompressing, drinking some wine and taking to heart some Kevin Garnett advice about learning vs. losing. What the Wolves and their fans needed to hear was the stuff Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan said after stinking up Game 1 against the Bucks:

“No way in hell I shoot 6-for-25 again.” And then DeRozan went for 41 points to lead the Bulls’ Game 2 victory.

At this point, saying it and not doing it would be less discouraging than not saying it and not doing it.

3. Grizzlies have daunting depth

Jaren Jackson Jr. once again got into foul trouble. Dillon Brooks missed 10 of his 14 shots. Even Ja Morant was off for much of the game, shooting 5-for-18 from the floor and 5-for-10 at the line.

But Clarke scored 20 points with eight rebounds off the bench. Backup point guard Tyus Jones turned in an efficient 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in 14 minutes. Bane was about the only weapon the Grizzlies had for a while, and he finished with 26 points and seven 3-pointers.

Desmond Bane led the Grizzlies with 26 points and 7 3-pointers against Minnesota.

Strictly by bench, Memphis held a 41-22 scoring edge, 18-9 superiority on the glass and 14-for-23 shooting vs. the 8-for-26 showing from Minnesota’s subs.

“We’re one of the deepest teams in the league,” Morant said. “A lot of credit goes to those guys. I feel they pretty much won this game for us.”

Said Clarke: “It shows how deep our team is. We’ve got other guys who can make shots. We’ve got other guys who can make plays.”

4. Morant is Pat Beverley with real bite

If Wolves guard Patrick Beverley has been called “professional irritant” once, he’s been called it a thousand times. He yips, he pesters, he pushes the lines of decorum and fair play to their breaking points. He might not post big numbers but he does play feisty defense, can get under opponents’ skin and occasionally disrupt their focus.

Then there’s Morant, who does much of what Beverley does … but at a higher level. His defense isn’t as plucky but his ball skills are better: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, the first triple-double in Grizzlies playoff history. And he gave up nothing in messing with the Target Center crowd, jawing with several fans in the final seconds.

“I’m disrespectful just like they’re disrespectful,” Morant said of his back-and-forth. “Come in, win games on the road and have their fans go home mad. Probably be a lot of drinking with that L.”

5. Wolves’ playoff history looms large

No way around it: The Game 3 outcome for Minnesota was right out of their playoff history book. A humiliating effort, in keeping with the franchise’s rare and mostly dismal postseason results (2-10 in best-of-seven series across 33 seasons).

It’s time to do better. If this goes back to Memphis with the Grizzlies a game away from the conference semifinals, it won’t be back to Minnesota. An end-to-end performance that knots this at 2-2, guaranteeing at least one more Target Center crowd, that’s what the organization needs.

These playoff things don’t come Minnesota’s way very often. The Wolves need to get this one right. Or at least less wrong.

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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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