The Minnesota Timberwolves equalized their first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies with a nerve-wracking 119: 118 victory in the 4th game in Minneapolis on Saturday night. The series will now move back to Memphis with a score of 2-2.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the story of Game 4, which corrected an unsatisfactory effort in the previous game by scoring 33 points and 14 rebounds in an 8 to 17 shot, while 14 of 17 went off the penalty line. Anthony Edwards returned after a brief injury in the first quarter and scored 24 points in a 4-point three-point shootout.
Desmond Bane kept Memphis afloat for most of the evening when several Grizzlies struggled with fouls and ended up scoring 34 points 8 to 12 for 3 points. Dillon Brooks added 24 points while Ja Morant struggled off the field most of the night, but finished with 11 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds.
Here are some observations from Saturday’s match along with a recap of our live updates.
Cities are reflecting
Virtually no star in this playoff has received as much criticism as Towns after his mysterious performance in the third game, in which he scored just eight points in four field attempts while scoring five fouls. He needed to answer on Saturday and boy, he did sometimes.
Towns came out of the jump aggressively, refused to settle for jumpers, and got into the track where he threw free throws. Wolves coach Chris Finch then said Towns played “pissed off and relaxed.” The most free throws Towns ever attempted in a playoff game were eight, and more than doubled in Game 4.
It wasn’t even empty calories, because Towns did much of the damage late after the Grizzlies returned. In the fourth quarter, he scored 13 points on 4 of the 5 goals from the field and made two convincing free throws with 4.4 seconds to complete.
The Timberwolves need to be happy with the performance of their Saturday star, and this could give the team some momentum when they return to Memphis for Game 5.
Hard night for Me
Morant, who entered with an average score of 27.8 points in the playoffs, looked confused most of the evening when it came to creating his own attack. He did a great job of facilitating with 15 assists, but the tracks he usually finds toward the basket weren’t there often, and when he got to the edge, he tried to finish despite the athletic character and length of Minnesota.
“It’s not me now,” Morant said after the match. “I’m not playing over the edge.”
In addition to scoring problems, Morant also had foul problems most of the night, resulting in only 33 minutes (40 minutes in Game 3). The wolves also attacked him tirelessly at the other end, as they did for most of the series, which drained Morant’s energy and caused problems.
Like the Towns, Morant will try to bounce off the home crowd in Game 5.
JMac out of nowhere
We saw it in the playoffs again and again. You count the stars, but in each game there are usually one or two role players who make a difference. On Saturday, the player was Timberwolves midfielder Jordan McLaughlin, who scored 16 points in a three-point shootout 4 in 4 in just 14 minutes. His shovels also came in big moments like this 3-point in the fourth quarter after the Grizzlies reduced the lead to five points.
It’s no secret that Minnesota relies on its three stars – Towns, Edwards and D’Angelo Russell – for most scoring, but key contributions have come off the bench all year. In as close a match as Saturday night, 16 McLaughlin points were absolutely crucial.