The Minnesota Timberwolves were leading the Memphis Grizzlies by 26 points at one point during Game 3 of their best-of-seven series. They went on to lose that game, on their home floor, to a Memphis team that looked dead in the water on multiple occasions this evening. While there is still plenty of basketball left to be played before this series is decided, you have to imagine that all of the momentum is on the side of the Grizzlies heading into Game 4 this weekend.
Ja Morant did not have his best night by any stretch but his supporting cast, namely Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke, stepped up in a big way to help the Grizzlies pull off one of the best comebacks in playoff history. Minnesota will have a chance to bounce back in Game 4 but, based on this result, Memphis should be very confident heading into this weekend’s game at Target Center.
Here are three takeaways following Thursday night’s game.
1. A comeback for the ages
This isn’t exactly a “takeaway,” per se, but we just witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history, and we should take a moment to quantify what exactly we witnessed. Here are some historical markers the Grizzlies hit by overcoming a 26-point deficit:
- It was the biggest playoff comeback in Grizzlies history.
- It was tied for the biggest comeback in Grizzlies team history, regular or postseason.
- It was tied for the fourth-biggest 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 pulled it off twice. Minnesota opened the game on a 12-0 run and got the lead to 26 in the second quarter. However, Memphis fought back and closed the first half on a 15-0 run. That had the deficit at seven at halftime, but the Timberwolves proceeded to go on a 28-10 run to push the lead back up to 25. When Memphis came back, it needed a 21-0 run to knot things up. From that moment on, Memphis outscored Minnesota 21-12 to win the game.
If the Timberwolves can take solace in anything, it’s this: teams that blow enormous leads don’t always lose the series in which those leads were blown. Those 2002 Celtics? They may have overcome a 26-point deficit to win a single game against the Nets, but they lost the series. The Clippers own the biggest comeback in playoff history thanks their 31-point turnaround against the Warriors in 2019… and they lost as well. This series doesn’t have to be over. If the Timberwolves can pull themselves together, they can still tie this thing at home in Game 4. It’s just going to mean playing a complete game instead of allowing 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. His other three postseason games this season?
- Play-in vs. Clippers: 11 points, 3-of-11 shooting, six fouls
- Game 2 vs. Grizzlies: 15 points, 4-of-7 shooting, five fouls
- Game 3 vs. Grizzlies: 8 points, 3-of-4 shooting, five fouls
When Towns last played in the playoffs in 2018, he averaged a relatively meager 15.2 points on 47 percent shooting against the Houston Rockets. That team had Clint Capela, but was fairly small and spent plenty of minutes with P.J. Tucker at center. The Grizzlies haven’t gone quite so small in this series, but it’s worth noting that Steven Adams played 24 minutes in Game 1 and has played just three ever since. Jaren Jackson Jr. is largely playing center when he’s in the game, and Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman are also getting run there as well.
Jackson, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is largely equipped to defend Towns when he’s on the floor, but, like Towns, has fouling issues. He played just 21 minutes in Game 3 for that reason. A scorer of Towns’ caliber should be able to generate offense against Tillman and Clarke. That he hasn’t been able to is concerning. At a bare minimum, the Wolves have to find a way to maximize Towns as, in his own words, “the greatest big man shooter of all time.” If he can drag some of these already smaller Grizzlies away from the basket, he can at least make life easier for teammates. Thus far in this series, he really hasn’t done that yet. He has to assert himself more in Game 4 if Minnesota is going to have a chance here.
Courtesy: CBS Sports