Ja Morant refused to give any credit to the Golden State Warriors defense after missing the potential game-winning layup in the Memphis Grizzlies 117-116 Game 1 loss.

Morant finished with 34 points on 14-of-31 shooting, while also adding nine rebounds and 10 assists, but clanked his layup hard off the backboard as time expired under a good contest from Klay Thompson.

Jordan Poole was the star of the show for the Warriors, coming off the bench to score 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with eight rebounds and nine assists, stepping up to make up for Thompson's six-of-19 performance from the field.

Speaking with post-game media, Morant opted to not give any credit to Thompson's defense when prompted multiple times.

"It was the same message as every time we're in the situation – I just missed a layup," the All-Star said. 

When pressed on if Thompson's defense had any impact, Morant repeated his statement: "Nah, I just missed a layup."

Instead, Morant said where his side lost the contest was in the hustle categories that the Grizzlies usually excel in.

"We gave up too many second-chance points, we gave up [too many] fast-break points," he said. "That's definitely not what we want to be giving up, and it played a factor in this game.

"I feel like that's kind of where we messed up. We were running to the rim on their shots, and there were some long rebounds, 50-50 balls, you know we've got to come up with those against this team. We can't allow them second chances, or open looks, and they made us pay for it.

"We came out and fought – we had a lead, then went down, then got the lead back. Klay hit a big-time three, and I missed a layup. 

"Despite all that, we gave up 26 second-chance points and 18 fast-break points, and we lost by one. 

"It's nothing to hang our heads about – but obviously we've got to correct those things."

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins did not want to let Jaren Jackson Jr's night go unnoticed either, as he posted a playoff career-high 33 points as the Defensive Player of the Year candidate sank six-of-nine three-pointers.

"[Morant and Jackson] were big for us tonight," Taylor said. "I thought as [the Warriors] changed their line-ups, we started utilising 'JJ' more in ball-screens – Ja was doing a great job finding him, and JJ capitalised. 

"It's going to be a great film to go back and watch to see where we were successful, and see where we weren't. But those two guys were bright spots for sure."

When asked about the plan on the last possession, Jenkins was adamant that he trusts his best player to decide the game.

"[We were looking for] Ja to go make a play," he said. "He had a great look, it just didn't happen to go in."

Draymond Green believes his ejection in the Golden State Warriors' 117-116 win over the Memphis Grizzlies was called due to his reputation.

The Warriors bench responded angrily to Green's ejection after a video review ruled his foul a flagrant-two, for excessive and unnecessary contact with Brandon Clarke, after pulling Clarke's jersey when he went up to the basket following an offensive rebound.

The former Defensive Player of the Year did not take long to sound off, recording an episode of the Draymond Green Podcast from his hotel room in Memphis after the game.

The 32-year-old said the ejection was borne more of his reputation, but also added his hope for the NBA to rescind the flagrant-two to a flagrant-one, meaning his next flagrant in the playoffs would not result in a suspension.

“We’ve seen questionable calls in the first round… some things that didn’t get reviewed,” he said. “Sometimes I guess it’s just a case-by-case thing, it’s a reputation thing. I think tonight was probably a reputation thing more so than a hard foul.

“My biggest worry moving forward is that gives me two flagrant foul points, and as we know I’ve been ejected for an accumulation of flagrant foul points, so my hope is that the right thing will happen and that it will at least get rescinded to a flagrant one.

"I can’t quite say it was unnecessary… and to say it was excessive would be a bit extreme.”

Green was notoriously suspended for Game 5 in the 2016 Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers for a flagrant-one foul, after he was tangled up with LeBron James.

Green made reference to that in providing context on the Clarke foul, and whether we would be surprised at the ejection.

"You know, one thing about the foul is, I actually tried to hold him [Clarke] up," he said.

"I wasn't told anything because I left the court, but guys were told I was ejected for throwing him down, which is very interesting because even when he hit the ground, I still was holding his jersey up.

"But at this point, I kind of expect things like that, like I've been suspended from Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You think for one second I don't believe I would get kicked out of Game 1 of the second round? Not surprising to me at all. Not one bit."

Stephen Curry says he is proud of his team's response to Draymond Green's rejection, after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 on the road against Memphis Grizzlies with a 117-116 win.

Green was ejected in the first half of Sunday's series opener at the FedEx Forum for a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke, and the Warriors rallied to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter before holding on with defensive stops on the Grizzlies' final two possessions.

Curry snatched the ball from Ja Morant to set up free-throws for the Warriors, but Klay Thompson shockingly missed both, before he responded by stopping Morant on the final possession of the game.

The former unanimous MVP praised his side's mental toughness in not imploding after the contentious ejection, noting it even galvanised them in front of the Memphis crowd.

"It was a tough call obviously, on the road and you're trying to start a series, and you get a guy like Draymond headed to the locker room," Curry said. "Nobody wants to see that. It's not good for the game, I didn't think it [Green's jersey pull] deserved that.

"We got a little emotional rise out of it, trying to stay locked in and deal with the circumstances and give ourselves a chance to win.

"Whatever emotion you rely on to turn the page from one series to the next, and especially when you're starting on the road, you've got to have an edge about you, for sure."

Along with the defensive stops, the Dubs' win on Sunday was also notable for the fact Curry and Thompson shot a combined 14-of-39, including eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Jordan Poole compensated and nearly notched his first triple-double with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds.

With Curry starting in Poole's place this time, after he was eased back off the bench in the series win over the Denver Nuggets, the 34-year-old cited his team's resilience as critical.

"Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tie into it, you just bring it," Curry said. "When Draymond went out, there's your moment like 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna figure this out?'

"To go into half-time, regroup, come out and play the way that we did, I'm really proud of everybody and their approach to the game. It was a good vibe out there."

The Boston Celtics failed to take Game 1 at home despite locking up Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the Milwaukee Bucks managing a 101-89 win on Sunday.

Antetokoumpo shot nine-of-25 from the floor and coughed up five turnovers as the Celtics went at him defensively - trapping upon receiving the ball in the post, along with crowding the paint and staying physical as he drove to the basket.

Boston did not capitalise on the other end however, shooting a playoff low 33 per cent (23-of-84) from the floor in the loss.

While it was evident in the Brooklyn series, Jaylen Brown as one of the Celtics' ball-handlers hurt the team, giving up a game-high seven turnovers as he scored 12 points off four-of-13 shooting.

The assist count was naturally low for both teams - 22 for Milwaukee, 21 for Boston - in what became a defensive stoush, setting the tone for this series.

Warriors take home court from Memphis

Later on Sunday, the Golden State Warriors dramatically took home court from the Memphis Grizzlies, claiming a 117-116 win in Game 1 on the road.

The win was all the more impressive given Draymond Green was ejected early for a Flagrant 2 foul, after he pulled Brandon Clarke down by the jersey.

It also came with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only converting on a combined 14-of-39 from the floor, even walking into open looks down the stretch after offensive rebounds.

Notably, the Warriors almost dared Ja Morant to shoot, taking 11 three-point attempts in Game 1, which is a contrast to the 20 he attempted for the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Morant still had the final possession, but after rimming both free-throws to make it a three-point game, Thompson forced the 22-year-old into a miss as he attacked the basket.

Narratives are being readied all over the place to make this season's NBA playoffs potentially one of the most exciting of recent times.

The first round may not have provided quite as much drama as hoped, with none of the eight clashes going to a Game 7, but looking at the contests in prospect in the Conference semi-finals, we should not be far away from some.

The top four seeds in both Conferences ultimately made it through, though that's not to say some were not given a bit of a fright, and the semis were set after the Memphis Grizzlies eventually put away the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Game 6.

There are stories to be written when it comes to the star players in the league, though, with some excelling as they look lead their team to glory, while others are struggling to stay on the court and off the injured list.

This leads us into some potentially fascinating encounters in the final eight, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what we can expect over the next two weeks.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Frankly, these two should be perfectly fresh heading into this one.

The Celtics whitewashed the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, barely breaking a sweat in the process, while the Bucks dropped just one game in overcoming a depleted Chicago Bulls.

Jayson Tatum has unsurprisingly been the star so far for Boston in the postseason, averaging 29.5 points per game, including 39 in Game 3, as well as averaging 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Equally unsurprisingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been leading the way for the defending NBA champions, averaging 28.6 points per game from five postseason outings so far for the Bucks, as well as 6.2 assists and 13.4 rebounds.

The continued absence of Khris Middleton will be a blow for Mike Budenholzer, with the swingman still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the first round, and reports suggesting he will miss the entirety of this round as well.

These two beat each other twice during the regular season, with the Bucks getting the final win just over three weeks ago at Fiserv Forum, so it promises to be a much tighter affair than either experienced in round one.

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

The number one seeds in the East were barely inconvenienced by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, with the Heat winning 4-1.

Jimmy Butler is bringing it in the playoffs so far, averaging 30.5 points, with an additional 5.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. He missed Game 5 against the Hawks with a knee inflammation, but it is hoped he will return for Game 1 against his former team.

Kyle Lowry's participation is more of a question mark, with the 36-year-old missing since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 3.

There is an arguably worse injury situation in Philadelphia, though, with Joel Embiid out "indefinitely" with a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. The Cameroonian was averaging 26.2 points across the 4-2 first round win over the Toronto Raptors.

Despite playing with an injured thumb, Embiid was dominant as the Sixers took out Game 6, putting up 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor and nine-of-10 from the free-throw line, as well as adding 10 rebounds and three blocks, but it is unclear when he will play a part in this round.

Tyrese Maxey, along with James Harden, will need to step up even more in the absence of Embiid if the Sixers are to dump out the top seeds.

Like the Celtics and the Bucks, these two traded two wins apiece in the regular-season meetings, with the Sixers winning 113-106 at Wells Fargo Center in March without Embiid, with Maxey top-scoring with 28 points.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies

Despite the best efforts of Nikola Jokic, the Warriors strolled past the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round, but can expect a sterner test here from the Grizzlies.

Stephen Curry is on his game, averaging 28 points across those five outings, although only 3.8 three-pointers per game so far, being outshone in that metric by team-mate Klay Thompson, who has averaged 4.4.

Curry and Thompson combined to great effect in Game 5 against the Nuggets, scoring 33 and 32 points respectively.

Memphis probably struggled more than they thought they would against the Timberwolves, securing a 4-2 win in the end but being made to work for it.

Ja Morant recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in Game 5. Only five players in the last 35 seasons have recorded such a stat line in a playoff game, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Morant himself.

Morant has continued his great form, but Desmond Bane is also shining in the postseason, with the top average point score for the Grizzlies of 23.5, and 4.5 three-pointers made per game.

The Grizzlies could have a psychological edge in this contest, having won all of their last three meetings in the regular season, with the 28-point difference in the 123-95 win at FedExForum in late March the largest defeat of the Warriors' season.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Although ultimately through with a game to spare, it was surprising to see the Suns struggle as much as they did against the eighth-seed New Orleans Pelicans.

The outstanding Suns, who won 64 regular-season games, eventually prevailed 4-2 against the Pelicans, who by comparison won just 36 in the regular season, but that is what the playoffs bring, the threat of upsets.

Monty Williams and his team will have hardly been panicking, though, even when they were tied at 2-2 after Game 4, with a Chris Paul-inspired win in New Orleans in Game 6 sealing their passage through.

Having Devin Booker back is a big boost for West's number one seeds, with the 25-year-old returning from a hamstring injury for Game 6 that ruled him out of Games 3-5, having registered a combined 56 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Mavericks made it through the first round for the first time since they won the championship in 2011, seeing off the Utah Jazz 4-2, in a series that was also previously tied at 2-2.

It was made all the more impressive considering Luka Doncic could only play in three games, though still averaging 29.0 points in those he did, as well as 5.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds.

That meant someone else stepping up, and that someone else was Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 in Game 2 and a further 31 in Game 3, averaging 27.8 across the six games.

Dallas will need to do something about their record against Phoenix, though, having lost their last nine meetings with them, including three this season. The Mavs have not recorded a win against the Suns since November 2019.

The Memphis Grizzlies are "always confident no matter what the score is", Ja Morant explained after another comeback sent them through in the NBA playoffs.

All-Star Morant won his first playoff series as he helped the Grizzlies overturn the Minnesota Timberwolves' fourth-quarter lead in Game 6 on Friday and win 114-106.

That victory sends the Grizzlies into the Western Conference semi-finals – the first time they have reached that stage since 2015 – and sets up a series against the Golden State Warriors, which will start on Sunday in Tennessee.

It was the third time in their series against the Timberwolves that the Grizzlies had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the final quarter.

"The series was a battle," said Morant, who had a double-double of 17 points and 11 assists, complemented by eight rebounds.

"We knew that every game would be a dogfight. Coming in we knew, with this team, we wouldn't win this series in one game.

"We knew that every game would be a dogfight, that we had to come in locked in and bring our energy from the start. Obviously, the wins were pretty ugly outside of Game 2, but we got it done.

"I feel like we're always confident no matter what the score is. We treat it pretty much as zero-zero.

"We've been down double-digits plenty of times and came back and won. We know the game is not over until there are zeros on the scoreboard at the end of the fourth quarter."

While Morant is confident in Memphis' comeback abilities, team-mate Dillon Brooks insisted it is not by design.

"I wish we had better starts," said Brooks, who along with Morant danced on the Timberwolves' logo after sealing Memphis' progression.

"We don't want to put ourselves in that predicament, but we always find a way to fight.

"Like coach [Taylor Jenkins] said in the locker room, 'There's not one way to win in the NBA playoffs'. There are a lot of ways to win and we just figured out one way."

Morant has had a brilliant campaign though was kept relatively quiet across the series as a whole in his first postseason appearance. However, support came from Desmond Bane.

"If you ask me, the MVP of this series is this guy right here," Morant said while sitting with Bane at a news conference.

"Time and time again, he came up big-time. He hit some big-time shots for us, even kept us in the game, and gave us a lead."

A career night for Minnesota Timberwolves reserve Jaden McDaniels was not enough to stop the Memphis Grizzlies from winning Game 6 114-106 on the road, clinching the series 4-2 in the process.

It was another tough game scoring the ball for Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who shot four-of-14 from the field and zero-for-five from long range for his 15 points, bringing his series averages to 21 points per game at 39 per cent shooting.

But yet again, he found other ways to impact the game and help his side win, with 11 assists and eight rebounds, right in line with his average production in the series as he assumed a facilitating role.

Desmond Bane led Memphis in scoring (both in the game and the series) with 23 points from nine-of-15 shooting, Jaren Jackson Jr finally stayed out of foul trouble and delivered 18 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, and Brandon Clarke was the difference-maker off the bench with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

For the Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards scored a game-high 30 points on 10-of-24 shooting and added five assists, two blocks and two steals, while Karl-Anthony Towns was solid, but disappointing for an All-Star with 18 points (six-of-19 shooting) and 10 rebounds.

Jaden McDaniels almost proved to be the most important player in the game after coming off the Timberwolves bench, hitting eight of his nine shots, including five out of six three-point attempts to score a career-high 24 points in 33 minutes.

McDaniels' clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter cut the margin back to 103-102, but the Grizzlies were just too strong down the stretch, winning the last frame 40-22 for their second straight victory after trailing by double figures at three-quarter time.

With the win, the Grizzlies will meet the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Ja Morant produced a dazzling fourth-quarter display and game-winning lay-up to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a 3-2 series lead in their first round playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Grizzlies triumphed 111-109 over the Timberwolves, led by Morant with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

Morant made the decisive contribution with a play with 3.7 seconds left with scores at 109-109, bucketing a left-handed lay-up from Dillon Brooks' inbound.

Memphis had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally, with recently crowned NBA Most Improved Player Morant scoring 18 points in the fourth. Morant had sparked after a massive third-quarter dunk.

Desmond Bane added 25 points for the Grizzlies, while Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent with 28 points including five three-pointers and 12 rebounds.

Heat seal series win over Hawks

The Miami Heat completed a 4-1 series victory over the Atlanta Hawks with a 97-94 win, despite the absences of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.

The Hawks failed to get a shot away in the final play in the dying seconds to force over-time as the Heat triumphed led by Victor Oladipo (23 points) and Bam Adebayo (20 points and 11 rebounds).

Trae Young struggled again with 11 points on two-of-12 shooting from the field, finishing the five-game series with 30 turnovers.

Bridges guides Suns into 3-2 lead

Mikal Bridges produced a 24-point second half as the Phoenix Suns won 112-97 over the New Orleans Pelicans to move ahead 3-2 in their first round series.

Bridges finished with 31 points for the game while Chris Paul had 22 points, 11 assists and three steals for the Suns who were without Devin Booker (hamstring).

The Suns, who came into the playoffs with the best record in the NBA, led from start to finish. Brandon Ingram top scored for the Pelicans - who had six turnovers in the first quarter - with 22 points.

The instructions for Ja Morant for his game-winning lay-up were as simple as "go get a bucket, Ja" in the Memphis Grizzlies' 111-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

Morant landed the decisive bucket from the final play with scores locked at 109-109 with 3.7 seconds to play, putting Memphis 3-2 up in their first round NBA playoffs series.

The NBA's Most Improved Player received Dillon Brooks' inbound, losing Anthony Edwards who went for the steal, before driving and putting in an under-handed lay-up past Jarred Vanderbilt.

"Go get a bucket, Ja," Morant told reporters when asked about the instructions for the final play.

Morant scored 18 fourth-quarter points after struggling with 12 until three-quarter time, appearing to be sparked after a dunk in the third quarter.

"I wasn’t that excited about the dunk," he said. "It was over a guard, that's pretty easy.

"Definitely ignited the crowd, gave us some energy, from then on being very aggressive."

The Grizzlies had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally led by Morant, but the All-Star said he was "tired" of being forced to fight back. Memphis had clawed their way back from 26 points down in Game 3 to win 104-95.

"It feels good when you win," Morant said. "Me personally, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of playing from behind.

"Game 2 you see what happened when we come out and play from the jump. We've got to have that mindset like we had in Game 2 in Game 6 [on Friday] not give them too much life to go ahead.

"We need to start early. The last three games we haven't played our basketball, not knocking down our shots but we battle."

Meanwhile, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 28 points with 12 rebounds, bemoaned letting another lead slip.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," Towns said. "You feel like you got it after all the mistakes made and everything like that.

"We hit a big three to tie the game up with four seconds (left). You feel good. You feel good about going into overtime and having a chance to win the game. Just a learning experience."

Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant has been crowned the NBA's 2021-22 Most Improved Player.

Morant, 22, was the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year, but this year made a leap in his ability to score the ball, and guided his team to the second seed in the Western Conference with a 56-26 record.

After averaging 19 points per game at under 45 per cent shooting in 2020-21, Morant raised that figure to 27 points per game with career-best efficiency at 49 per cent from the field and 34 per cent from long range.

He also posted career-highs in three-point makes and attempts, rebounds per game and steals per game, with a small drop in assists.

The Grizzlies are currently tied at 2-2 in their first round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, with Game 5 set to take place back in Memphis.

To win the award, Morant beat out fellow finalists Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs, and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland.

The Boston Celtics inched closer to sweeping the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, claiming a 3-0 series lead with a 109-103 victory at the Barclays Center.

Jayson Tatum notched up 39 points on 13-of-29 shooting, six assists, five rebounds and six steals in the win for the Celtics, who continued to lock down Kevin Durant.

Though Durant shot 54.5 per cent from the floor, moving him to 17-of-52 for the series, he did it on 11 shots on Saturday as the flexible and intense Celtics defensive scheme continued to force the ball out of his hands. Kyrie Irving also went six-of-17 from the floor.

Bruce Brown was the highest scorer for the Nets with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but he and Durant contributed to 10 of the team's 20 turnovers, from which Boston scored 25 points.

The Celtics led for the whole of the second half and whenever the Nets would threaten with a scoring run, managed to make timely buckets and secure a big road win.

Gobert gets up for Jazz win

Luka Doncic's return from injury was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks as the Utah Jazz evened up their series at 2-2, earning a 100-99 win.

Rudy Gobert gave Utah the lead with an alley-oop dunk with 11 seconds remaining in Game 4, before Spencer Dinwiddie missed a three-ball at the buzzer for the Mavs.

While Doncic had 30 points in his first game back from a strained calf, Dallas were kept to just 18 points in the fourth quarter, shooting six-of-18 from the floor.  

Siakam sizzles as Raptors avoid sweep

Pascal Siakam scored 15 of his of 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Toronto Raptors avoided a series sweep, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

Despite a 19-point deficit in points off turnovers, Toronto continually managed to penetrate and get on the break, holding a combined 25-point advantage for points in the paint and fast-break points.

Nursing an injured thumb, Joel Embiid shot seven-of-16 from the floor for his 21 points to go with eight rebounds, but also coughed up five turnovers.

Timberwolves level series with Grizzlies

Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from a disappointing Game 3 to help the Minnesota Timberwolves even their playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies, winning 119-118.

After going missing in Game 3, taking only four shots as the Grizzlies overcame a 26-point deficit, Towns was more assertive from the outset, adding 13 rebounds to 33 points.

Anthony Edwards' fingerprints were all over the game however, coming up with 24 points on seven-of-14 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant took joy in inflicting pain on the Minnesota Timberwolves fans in attendance of their 104-95 win.

Memphis' win, to go up 2-1 in the seven-game series, came after not taking their first lead until 7:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies fell down by 26 points in the second quarter, and were able to pull the margin back to seven points at half-time, before the Timberwolves extended it back out to 25 points in the third term.

Trailing 83-62, the Grizzlies scored 21 consecutive points to tie things up, before pushing on and finishing the game on an eye-watering 50-13 run, including a 37-12 final quarter.

Ja Morant struggled to score as the Timberwolves backed off him and dared him to shoot long jump shots all night, finishing five-of-18 from the field, but he worked his way to a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks – the first playoff triple-double in Grizzlies history.

Before the game, Morant told reporters he wanted to send the Wolves fans home "mad", and he stood by his comments when chatting with post-game media.

"[Backing up my comments felt] good," he said. "I'm disrespectful just like [Timberwolves fans] are disrespectful.

"That's why you saw me throw the ball in the air [at the end] – I asked for the ball [for that specific purpose]. 

"I know what we're capable of, and like I said this morning, that was our goal, to come and win games on the road and have their fans go home mad. There will probably be a lot of people drinking tonight [in Minnesota], with that 'L'."

Morant spoke about his team's never-say-die attitude, and gave a shout-out to the role players who he says "won this game for us".

"The message was just to continue to fight – go out and battle – because we all know the game is never over until there's zeroes on the clock at the end," he said.

"It's the same thing I've been saying all season about my teammates – they deserve a lot more respect and recognition for what they do for us on the floor. 

"Us three [Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr and Dillon Brooks] struggled, but that's why we've got [Tyus Jones] and the rest of our teammates to pick us up. We're really the deepest team in the league, and we're so good.

"Those three guys [Jones, Brandon Clarke and Desmond Bane] were very big-time for us. Tyus coming in and being the floor general, controlling the pace and knocking down some big-time shots for us during that stretch where 'Des' and 'BC' were alongside of him. 

"That picked us up – a lot of credit goes to those guys – I feel like they pretty much won this game for us."

A remarkable fourth quarter from the Memphis Grizzlies was the catalyst in their 104-95 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going up 2-1 in the series.

In the first quarter, in front of their home fans, it appeared that it was going to be all Timberwolves early as they got off to a scorching start, with Patrick Beverley scoring eight of the game's first 12 points as the hosts went up 12-0.

Both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr collected two personal fouls each in the opening period as the Grizzlies went into the second quarter trailing 39-21. A much-improved defensive effort held the Wolves to 12 points in the second term, though, cutting the margin back to 51-44 at the half.

Memphis were unable to keep that momentum coming out of the break as Minnesota started the third frame on a 28-10 run, pulling away to a 79-54 lead.

But trailing 83-62 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started their run. They would score 21 consecutive points to tie the game at 83-83 as Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones lifted the visitors.

As Karl-Anthony Towns struggled down the stretch – finishing with just eight points and five blocks with five fouls – the Grizzlies were firing on all cylinders, winning the last quarter 37-12 to open their lead up to 10 points for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

Morant was a disappointing five-of-18 from the field for his 16 points and seven turnovers, but he added 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he stayed involved in other areas of the game. 

He was supported beautifully by Bane who top-scored with 26 points, hitting seven-of-15 from long range, while Clarke had 20 points and eight rebounds on just nine field goal attempts. Jones posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench, hitting all three of his threes.

Game 4 will remain in Minnesota before heading back to Memphis for Game 5.

Brunson and the bench boys

Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson carried his side to a 126-118 win against the Utah Jazz, with superstar teammate Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points in his last outing, before dropping 31 on 12-of-22 shooting in hostile territory on Thursday.

He was supported by a terrific shooting performance by the Mavericks reserves, as Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans and Josh Green combined to shoot 11-of-17 from three-point range. As a team, Dallas shot 42.9 per cent from beyond the arc (18-of-42).

The Jazz shot 56 per cent from the field in the loss, but were minus 12 in the nine minutes with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. Mitchell finished with 32 points (10-of-21 shooting) with six assists.

Rudy Gobert did not miss a field goal or free throw for 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz struggled to get stops while he and Mike Conley were on the floor, as both players finished with a plus/minus of minus 16.

The win is the Mavericks' first in Utah since 2016.

Warriors shoot their way to 3-0 lead

In a game where both teams shot the lights out, the Golden State Warriors showed once again that it is not wise to get into a shoot-out with the team from the Bay Area, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-113.

The Warriors shot 55 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from long range (18-40) as their offense was clicking for most of the night. 

Denver shot the ball well in their own right, finishing 50 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep (11-of-26), and even looked to take control in the third quarter, winning the term 30-18 and taking a 89-87 lead into the final period.

But that third quarter would be the Warriors' only slip-up, scoring at least 31 points in the other three as the Splash Brothers – now with a third member – were unstoppable.

Stephen Curry came off the bench once again to score 27 points (nine-of-17 shooting, three-of-nine from deep), Klay Thompson looked back to his best with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, hitting six of his 13 threes, while Jordan Poole continues to show he is no flash in the pan, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic tried his heart out, finishing with 37 points (14-of-22 shooting) with 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and he was plus three in his 38 minutes, meaning the Nuggets were outscored by eight in his 10 minutes on the bench.

The win moves the Warriors to a 3-0 lead, with Game 4 to be played in Denver, before returning home for Game 5.

Ja Morant gave the Memphis Grizzlies a brief scare but declared himself "good" after returning to the floor in their Game 2 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Grizzlies are the second seed in the West but dropped the first game of their first-round series to the seventh seed T-Wolves.

They needed a response then on Tuesday and got it, predictably, through Morant, who had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a 124-96 win to level the series.

But it was not all plain sailing for the Most Improved Player finalist, who took a knee to his thigh in the third quarter and limped off.

Morant returned to play four minutes in the fourth quarter, though, and said afterwards: "I'm good, a warrior. I played on concrete."

The former second overall pick is undoubtedly the Grizzlies' star man, but the team have at least proven they can play without him this year.

As part of their run to finish with a 56-26 record, second behind only the Phoenix Suns across the NBA, Memphis went a remarkable 20-5 in games Morant missed.

The Phoenix Suns lost Devin Booker to a hamstring injury as they were stunned 125-114 by the New Orleans Pelicans who squared up their first-round playoffs series.

Brandon Ingram scored 37 points, including 26 in the second half, with 11 rebounds and nine assists, while CJ McCollum added 23 points including six three-pointers.

But the hamstring injury to Suns All-Star guard Booker was the major talking point, leaving the Western Conference's top seed severely weakened if he is out for an extended period.

The Suns were leading 61-56 at half-time with Booker having scored 31 first-half points including shooting seven-of-11 from three-point range, before he left the game in the third quarter and did not return.

Chris Paul could not lift the Suns in Booker's absence, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 19 points.

 

Butler on fire as Heat win

Jimmy Butler scored 45 points with 15-of-25 shooting from the field as the Miami Heat claimed a 2-0 lead in their series against the Atlanta Hawks with a 115-105 win.

The Heat went on an 11-0 run the third quarter to open up the game-winning lead led by Butler while Tyler Herro (15 points) and Max Strus (14 points) contributed well.

Trae Young, coming off a playoff career-low display, managed 25 points for the Hawks with Bogdan Bogdanovic landing five triples in his 29-point haul.

 

Grizzlies claim franchise-best playoff win

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame a Ja Morant injury scare as they levelled their series against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 124-96 victory.

Morant left the court in the third quarter after copping a knee to his left leg but returned, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. That was Morant's third career playoffs double-double.

The victory was the Grizzlies' largest in their franchise playoff history, despite Anthony Edwards' best efforts with 20 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.

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