August 20, 2022

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Ja Morant obtained a lot of the eye for the Grizzlies’ comeback victory over the Timberwolves in Sport 5 of their first-round playoff collection Tuesday. Rightfully so, because the guard tallied 16 factors within the last six minutes, together with the game-winner with one second to play.

However nothing Morant achieved would have been attainable with out Brandon Clarke residing on the offensive glass for Memphis.

“What number of offensive rebounds did they’ve within the fourth?” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch requested after his workforce squandered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.

He was then knowledgeable that Clarke himself had seven over the ultimate 12 minutes.

“Clarke had seven alone?” Finch mentioned. “That’s the sport. … That they had 12 second-chance factors within the fourth quarter. That was it. That’s the sport.”

Certainly. Clarke — who completed with 21 factors and 15 rebounds, together with 9 offensive rebounds — is essentially accountable for the truth that Minnesota heads again to Minneapolis in a 3-2 gap on this best-of-7 collection, fairly than being one win away from development.

“I used to be simply targeted on attempting to win, looking for a means to assist us win. That’s simply been me the entire 12 months actually, simply form of bringing that combat and bringing that form of vitality off the bench,” Clarke mentioned. “That’s actually what I do, and (Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins) trusted me to be within the sport within the fourth. I simply knew that I used to be looking for a method to win and simply attempting to make performs to simply get boards and move it out and let (Desmond Bane) or Ja (Morant) hit the massive pictures, and it was simply me attempting to attempt to discover a method to win tonight.”

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He not solely tried, he succeeded. What else is new? The 6-foot-8 ahead has been a thorn within the Wolves’ aspect for years.

He’s an unlikely suspect to function a collection game-changer. The third-year ahead out of Gonzaga averaged fewer than 20 minutes a sport this season. He averaged 10.4 factors and 5.3 rebounds a sport, however there have been additionally stretches of the season during which he wasn’t within the rotation.

But one thing about enjoying Minnesota turns Clarke into a mix of Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley. By the primary 5 video games of this collection, Clarke is averaging 16.4 factors on 60 % capturing whereas grabbing 8.8 rebounds — 3.6 of that are offensive. He’s dominating the sport on a nightly foundation.

Jenkins mentioned Clarke’s vitality and impression is “tremendous vital” for the Grizzlies, including the massive man is “enjoying to his strengths.”

“We hold speaking about simply attempting to make profitable performs, and that’s what we would like our 5 males to do,” Jenkins mentioned. “We’ve been doing all of it season lengthy, and the truth that he’s doing that right here within the playoffs to make an impression, particularly in significant, profitable moments, big credit score to him to proceed to play with that vitality.”

Clarke has made hay all through his younger profession towards the Timberwolves, who’ve served as a launching pad for the 25-year-old on a number of events. In simply the seventh sport of his profession in 2019, Clarke scored a then career-high 18 factors on an ideal 7-for-7 capturing and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes.

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Clarke had fallen out of the Grizzlies’ rotation early this season, till Memphis met up with Minnesota in mid-November. Jenkins went again to Clarke, who had 20 factors and 9 rebounds, going 8 for 11 from the sphere in 24 minutes.

The Wolves have by no means had a solution for the younger ahead, even when he’s been the one query. Minnesota has rendered the Grizzlies’ different massive males moot on this collection. Jaren Jackson Jr. has been in fixed foul hassle, Steven Adams was faraway from the rotation for ineffectiveness and, sans for a number of vivid moments in Sport 2, Xavier Tillman has been common at finest.

That’s why Clarke’s minute load has been on a gradual rise all through collection, hitting a crescendo in Sport 5, when he performed a career-high 37 minutes. His prolonged enjoying time has been Jenkins’ greatest in-series adjustment. Clarke has been the Grizzlies’ lone inside presence. That was fairly actually true within the closing minutes of Sport 5, when Clarke was Memphis’ solely massive on the ground in its small-ball lineup. That didn’t cease him from grabbing seemingly each rebound.

“Yeah, once you play anyone like him, you simply gotta field him out,” Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t field him out and attempt to rebound as a result of he’s gonna bounce, faucet it. Simply gotta field him out. He was only a freak (Tuesday), man. I dunno.”

Finch at all times notes Minnesota’s relative lack of measurement, however Clarke is simply 6 foot 8. Minnesota was larger than Memphis to shut out Tuesday’s sport. Karl-Anthony Cities is clearly an even bigger participant. Cities steered Clarke had success on the offensive glass when the Timberwolves’ all-star middle was busy defending the rim towards the likes of Ja Morant, however tape examine means that was the case possibly as soon as.

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The remainder of the time, Clarke was beating everybody — Cities included — straight up, once more, and once more, and once more.

“He brings it. I’ll give him that, he brings it each sport,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell mentioned. “He has a loud, efficient stint at any time when he’s within the sport, so respect to him.”