NBA playoffs: Grizzlies beat Timberwolves; Mavs, Warriors win
Desmond Bane made seven three-pointers and had 26 points and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame a 26-point deficit to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-95 on Thursday night for a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Brandon Clarke scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half for Memphis, and Ja Morant had a quiet triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Tyus Jones hit two dagger three-pointers against his former team down the stretch, and the Grizzlies seized back home-court advantage. They stunned a Wolves team that won Game 1 on the road 130-117 but took an ugly 124-96 loss in Game 2.
Game 4 is Saturday night in Minneapolis.
D’Angelo Russell had 22 points and eight assists as the key driver of a third-quarter surge for the Wolves that pushed the lead back to 23 points, but he missed his three shots and was scoreless in the fourth. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota’s other max-contract player, had another clunker with eight points.
In this compelling matchup of Western Conference rivals with similar temperaments, fast-paced offenses and young star guards in Morant and Anthony Edwards, yet another game swung wildly back and forth between the two sides before the Grizzlies flashed their moxie for the largest comeback playoff victory in franchise history.
After taking a 47-21 lead early in the second quarter with a deafening roar in the 32-year-old downtown arena as the soundtrack, the Wolves were outscored 15-0 over the final 5:45 of the second quarter by a Grizzlies team that has been grappling with the same postseason inexperience and emotional immaturity resulting in bad shot selection and foolish, avoidable fouls.
After the NBA’s highest-scoring team made only 30 field goals in Game 2 to match a season low, the Wolves hit only 33 in Game 3. They went 8:34 of game time between the second and third quarters without a basket until Russell swished a three.
Jones, who grew up in the Twin Cities and was drafted by the Timberwolves the same year as Towns, hit a three-pointer to give the Grizzlies their first lead at 86-85. Memphis never trailed again.
Mavericks 126, Jazz 118
SALT LAKE CITY — Jalen Brunson scored 31 points playing with a bruised back and the Dallas Mavericks — without the injured Luka Doncic — beat the Utah Jazz 126-118 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for Dallas, Maxi Kleber had 17 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points, hitting a three-pointer with 1:56 left for a 10-point lead.
Doncic has missed all three of the games in the series because of a strained calf, with signs pointing to his return for Game 4 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Donovan Mitchell scored 28 of his 32 points in the second half for Utah. Bojan Bogdanovic added 24 and Mike Conley had 21. The Jazz had won 11 in a row at home against Dallas.
Conley got the Jazz to 103-102, but Dinwiddie made two baskets and Brunson scored six points on three straight possessions to make it 113-104.
Brunson appeared to hurt his back midway through the second quarter when Royce O’Neale hit him full speed from behind. He moved gingerly, rubbed his lower back and earned a technical on his way off the court complaining about a cheap shot.
But he shook it off and toyed with Jazz on a variety of drives to the baskets against several different defenders. Brunson now has 96 points in the three games of the series.
Once the Jazz finally matched the Mavericks and played without a center, the court opened up for Utah. Mitchell (18) and Bogdanovic (12) scored at will in the third quarter against a leaky Dallas zone. The Jazz made 14 of 18 shots and trimmed the lead to 97-91 entering the final period. The game was physical and chippy at times, featuring 60 fouls.
Warriors 118, Nuggets 113
DENVER — Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole scored 27 points each, Klay Thompson made six three-pointers on his way to 26 points and the Golden State Warriors muscled past the Denver Nuggets 118-113 on Thursday night to take a 3-0 lead in the playoff series.
Draymond Green added a key steal from Nikola Jokic, who finished with 37 points and 18 rebounds, in the final minute and the Warriors closed on a 9-2 run to put the Nuggets on the cusp of elimination.
Golden State can wrap up the series Sunday in Denver. Teams facing a 3-0 deficit in an NBA playoff series are 0-143.
The Nuggets were in control for much of the second half but after Jokic’s finger-roll layup put Denver ahead 111-109 with 3:20 left, the Warriors tightened up on defense.
The Nuggets went six straight possessions without scoring and Golden State had the game in hand by the time Will Barton’s tip-in with 23 seconds left pulled Denver to 117-113.
Aaron Gordon added 18 points for the Nuggets, who took an 89-87 lead into the fourth quarter but lost for the seventh straight time in the postseason.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone complained before the game that his team hadn’t been aggressive, physical or vocal in the series, so he inserted Facundo Campazzo into his rotation after losing the first two games by an average of 18 points.
“When you’re a little bit undermanned like we are, we have to be ultra physical, ultra aggressive and take the fight to them,“ Malone said.
Campazzo wasn’t the answer, but the Nuggets came out of halftime with renewed energy and used a 30-18 third quarter to take an two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets missed their last four shots of the first half and Curry had a three-pointer and a three-point play to push Golden State’s lead to 69-59 at the break.
Without max players Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back), the Nuggets knew they had to slow the pace because they cannot keep up with the healthy Warriors.
“We’re in a Pinto, and they’re in a Maserati,” Malone quipped.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr chuckled at the analogy, noting he has never owned either model.
“I’m somewhere in between,“ he said.
There’s no denying his team is turbo-charged, however, after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.
“I think in some ways, we are reinvigorated after the last couple of years,“ Kerr said. “We had a long run that started before I got here. Seven straight years in the playoffs and five trips to the Finals and there was a lot of fatigue at that point, emotional, physical fatigue. It was very easy to tell and to feel that so, last couple of years we haven’t been in the playoffs.
“The sense that I get from the guys who have been here a long time, it’s they are happy as hell to be back. So they’re playing with a lot of a lot of energy, a lot of excitement.”
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