Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves score, takeaways: Memphis overcome 26-point deficit in Game 3 upset win

The Minnesota Timberwolves were leading the Memphis Grizzlies by 26 points at one point during Game 3 of their best-of-seven series. They lost that game, at their house, to a Memphis team that looked dead in the water on multiple occasions tonight. While there’s still a lot of basketball to be played before this series is decided, you can imagine that all the momentum is on the Grizzlies’ side heading into Game 4 this weekend.

Ja Morant didn’t have his best night by any means, but his supporting cast, namely Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke, took a huge step towards helping the Grizzlies achieve one of the best comebacks in playoff history. Minnesota will have a chance to bounce back in Game 4, but based on that result, Memphis should be very confident for this weekend’s game at Target Center.

Here are three takeaways after Thursday night’s game.

1. A return forever

This isn’t exactly a “takeaway” per se, but we’ve just witnessed one of the biggest turnarounds in playoff history, and we should take a moment to quantify exactly what we’ve witnessed. Here are some historical markers the Grizzlies have hit by overcoming a 26-point deficit:

  • It was the biggest playoff return in Grizzlies history.
  • He was tied for the biggest comeback in Grizzlies team history, regular or postseason.
  • He was tied for the fourth-highest comeback in playoff history with the 2002 Celtics and 2017 Cavaliers.
  • It was just the 32nd time in NBA history that any team overcame a 26-point deficit.

What made this comeback so special, though, is that the Grizzlies essentially did it twice. Minnesota opened the game with a 12-0 streak and opened the lead to 26 in the second quarter. However, Memphis fought back and closed the first half at 15-0. That had the deficit of seven at halftime, but the Timberwolves started running 28-10 to push the lead back to 25. When Memphis came back, it needed a 21-0 run to tie things up. From that moment, Memphis overtook Minnesota 21-12 to win the game.

If the Timberwolves can take solace in anything, it’s this: Teams that open up big clues don’t always lose the series those clues were released in. Those Celtics from 2002? They may have overcome a 26-point deficit to win a single game against the Nets, but they lost the series. The Clippers boast the biggest comeback in playoff history, thanks to their 31-point comeback against the Warriors in 2019… and they lost, too. This series doesn’t have to end. If the Timberwolves can pull themselves together, they can still tie this thing at home in Game 4. That will mean playing a full game instead of allowing for the messy set of runs that dominated Game 3.

2. So… we have to talk about Karl

Karl-Anthony Towns was wonderful in Game 1 of this series, scoring 29 points on 11 of 18 shooting with 13 rebounds. Your other three postseason games this season?

  • Play-in vs. Clippers: 11 points, 3 of 11 shots, six fouls
  • Game 2 against Grizzlies: 15 points, 4 of 7 shots, five fouls
  • Game 3 x Grizzlies: 8 points, 3 of 4 shots, five fouls

When Towns last played in the playoffs in 2018, he averaged a relatively meager 15.2 points on 47% shooting against the Houston Rockets. This team had Clint Capela, but it was quite small and spent many minutes with PJ Tucker in the center. The Grizzlies weren’t that small in this series, but it’s worth noting that Steven Adams played 24 minutes in Game 1 and has only played three since. Jaren Jackson Jr. is largely playing center when he’s in the game, and Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman are also running there as well.

Jackson, a contender for Defensive Player of the Year, is amply equipped to defend Towns when he’s on the court, but like Towns, he has fouling problems. He only played 21 minutes in Game 3 for this reason. A scorer of Towns’ caliber should be able to take offense against Tillman and Clarke. That he didn’t make it is worrying. At the very least, Wolves need to find a way to maximize Towns as, in their own words, “the greatest big man shooter of all time”. If he can drag some of those already smaller Grizzlies away from the basket, he can at least make life easier for his teammates. So far in this series, he hasn’t really done that yet. He has to assert himself more in Game 4 if Minnesota has a chance here.

3. The playoff depth value

Depth, as a squad-building priority, is often overlooked from a playoff perspective. The thinking is that once a team starts winning games, their rotation tends to get reduced to seven or eight players anyway, so what’s the use of having a dozen that you can actually use? It’s great in the regular season, and the Grizzlies proved it. They went 20-5 without Ja Morant this season largely because of the sheer number of playable pieces in their bench.

But one of the other great virtues of depth is versatility. The Grizzlies started Steven Adams all year. When they discovered that he wouldn’t fit into this particular confrontation, they had several alternatives they could turn to. Xavier Tillman was instrumental in the Game 2 win. Brandon Clarke was perhaps the best Grizzly in Game 3. His 20 points and eight rebounds were critical in offsetting Jackson’s fouling problem.

This versatility extends throughout the list. Dillon Brooks is 7 out of 25 in his last two games. He tends to run a little hot and cold. If Memphis wants to replace DeAnthony Melton or Ziaire Williams or even make it big again with Kyle Anderson playing a small forward, that opening is available to them. Most of their total minutes went to six players on Thursday, but the Grizzlies have significantly more choice in who those players are than the Timberwolves. Chris Finch doesn’t have an obvious card to play here, and that’s the scariest part of this 2-1 deficit for Minnesota.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.