NBA playoffs

Ja Morant’s last-second layup lifts Grizzlies over Wolves

Ja Morant’s last-second layup lifts Grizzlies over Wolves

THRILLER. Grizzlies star Ja Morant shakes off Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley.

Christine Tannous/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

In a thrilling finish, the Grizzlies pull off a Game 5 escape over the Timberwolves off a Ja Morant game-winner

Ja Morant dropped 18 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning layup in the final second, and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-109, to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round Western Conference playoff series on Tuesday, April 26 (Wednesday, April 27, Manila time).

Morant’s driving basket under duress as time expired capped a whirlwind final 2:01 in which the 2021-2022 NBA Most Improved Player scored the Grizzlies’ final 11 points.

Memphis will try to wrap up the best-of-seven series in Minneapolis on Friday.

In a thrilling windup, Jaden McDaniels’ defensive rebound gave the Timberwolves another chance to retake the lead, but Clarke successfully contested D’Angelo Russell’s fall-away jumper. Morant subsequently sank two free throws for a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds to go.

Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin, who went 4-of-4 from three-point range in Minnesota’s win Saturday, took the sideline inbounds pass and served as a decoy. He snapped a bounce pass to Anthony Edwards, who sank a game-tying triple with 3.7 seconds to go, the last basket of his 22-point night.

Morant’s lay-in on the other end broke the tie.

With Minnesota up by two and 1:03 to play, Memphis’ Brandon Clarke – who finished with 21 points and a game-high 15 rebounds coming off the bench – tipped the carom off a missed Tyus Jones three-point attempt out to Morant at the top of the key.

Morant’s ensuing three-pointer was his first made attempt from beyond the arc on the night, and it gave Memphis its first lead since the late first quarter. The Timberwolves built an advantage of as many as 13 points in the second half, including in the fourth quarter when Karl-Anthony Towns connected on one of his five made three-pointers on seven attempts.

Towns finished with team highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds while also recording 3 steals and 2 blocked shots.

After Towns’ three-pointer pushed Minnesota ahead 92-79 with 9:38 left, Memphis dominated the rest of the fourth quarter.

Following Morant’s go-ahead trey, Minnesota fed Towns the ball on the ensuing possession, but he lost control for the last of his seven turnovers.

Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane scored 25 points and blocked 3 shots. Morant also contributed 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals. –