MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – D’Angelo Russell had 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:23 left, to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves past the Memphis Grizzlies 119-114 on Thursday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points and 11 rebounds and Malik Beasley had 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range for the Timberwolves, who grinded and hustled their way through an inspired victory over one of the NBA’s best teams.
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Ja Morant’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5 seconds remaining fell well short for the Grizzlies, who lost the lead for good on Russell’s layup with 7:11 to go. Russell also broke ties with a 3-pointer with 6:23 left and a pair of free throws at the 2-minute mark.
Brandon Clarke’s tip-in with 1:40 remaining gave the Grizzlies a 114-all tie, but Russell – who urged Minnesota’s fans earlier this month to crank up the noise – sent the crowd into a frenzy at the other end with another swish.
Morant was not at full strength after getting hurt in the third quarter. He gutted his way to 20 points despite shooting 7 for 25. He did not shy from knifing through traffic and taking the ball to the basket, oftentimes hitting the floor hard.
Ziaire Williams and Jaren Jackson Jr. each scored 21 points for Memphis, which averaged more than 126 points over a 6-1 stretch leading into the All-Star break. This was far from the finest or sharpest performance for the Grizzlies, but their 59-42 rebounding edge helped keep them in it.
Morant left the game briefly with what appeared to be a painful injury, forcing him to hobble to the locker room while clutching at his left hip. But Morant, who became the first guard and the youngest player in Grizzlies history to make the All-Star Game last week, was back for the fourth quarter to set up the taut finish.
The Grizzlies have blossomed into one of the NBA’s brightest stars, a confident, sound and young bunch that brought the third-best record in the league – behind Phoenix and Golden State – into this post-All-Star-break final stretch of 22 regular -season games.
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They took advantage of some lax transition defense early by the Timberwolves and built a 15-point lead late in the first quarter, a strong enough start to withstand a torrid stretch by the home team that followed. Minnesota shot 13 for 25 from the floor in the second quarter and roared back to tie the game at 52 on a 3-pointer by Patrick Beverley.
Grizzlies: Morant’s backup, Tyus Jones, had just three points and three assists in 13 minutes on the floor he played on for his first four seasons in the league. Jones also won a state championship at Target Center with Apple Valley High School in 2013.… The Grizzlies had their five-game road winning streak stopped. They’re 21-10 away from home.
Timberwolves: Anthony Edwards shot just 1 for 11 to finish with five points. … The Timberwolves moved into a 51-50 lead in the all-time series with the Grizzlies.
Grizzlies: Visit Chicago on Saturday.
Timberwolves: Host Philadelphia on Friday.
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