Malik Beasley is a brave man. The Minnesota Timberwolves guard didn’t need to try to take a charge with Ja Morant barreling down the lane and loading up for a poster dunk. He could have let Morant have his slam uncontested, or he could have tried to foul him before he went up.
Instead, Beasley stepped up to try to draw an offensive foul late in the third quarter of a critical Game 5. The Wolves were leading by double-digits on the road in a tied 2-2 first round series, and every possession felt critical. If Beasley drew the charge, Morant would have his fourth foul, and Minnesota would get one more possession at the end of the third quarter.
But Beasley didn’t draw the charge. Instead, Morant soared for a huge tomahawk slam that worked the FedEx Forum into a frenzy. The Grizzlies were down big at the time, but this dunk by Morant energized Memphis on its way to a dramatic 111-109 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.
JA MORANT ON YA HEAD pic.twitter.com/066juBXfpi— Bally Sports: Grizzlies (@GrizzOnBally) April 27, 2022
Morant pulling out that dunk at that moment is what makes him special. The reality is that Morant badly needed that play to get both himself and his team going: after suffering a thigh contusion in Game 2, Morant had performed below his typical superstar standards, and had been having a quiet scoring night against a locked in Grizzlies defense. This play gave Memphis hope not only that they could come back in Game 5, but that Morant could be the superstar they need to advance in the playoffs.
Yes, Morant was struggling in Game 5, and so were the Grizzlies. That dunk was the tipping point for the big Memphis comeback in the fourth.
After an Anthony Edwards triple off a beautiful ATO tied the game on Minnesota’s last possession, the Grizzlies inbounded the ball to Morant and watched him make the game-winning layup. What an acrobatic finish for the win.
oh Anthony Edwards you can't go for that steal in that spot. Play for the catch, keep the ball in front. Unreal finish from Ja. pic.twitter.com/06HXK7m08P— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 27, 2022
Edwards really didn’t need to go for that steal, but it’s easier to appreciate the brilliance of Morant. What a play, what a game.
It all started with that third quarter dunk. Memphis is one win away from the second round.