MEMPHIS — The phone was ringing and Ja Morant answered the call.
Game 5 of the Memphis Grizzlies’ first-round playoff series Tuesday was tied when Morant drove to the basket and extended a left-handed layup over the Minnesota Timberwolves defense with one second remaining.
He then raised his hand to his ear, as if to mimic a phone call, as the Grizzlies defeated the Timberwolves 111-109 at FedExForum to take a 3-2 series lead. The Grizzlies can clinch the series victory in Game 6 on Friday in Minneapolis.
Before the winning layup, Morant had been searching for a 3-pointer. He missed his first 3, then the ball found his hands when the Grizzlies needed it most.
Tyus Jones missed a 3-pointer and Brandon Clarke tipped the ball over Timberwolves defenders to Morant’s hands.
Morant calmly took a step back and nailed a 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds to play to give the Grizzlies their first lead since 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
Morant made two free throws before Anthony Edwards tied the game on a 3-pointer, setting the stage for Morant’s final heroics.
The Grizzlies All-Star point guard struggled before bursting out with 18 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Here are three key observations from Game 5:
Rotation changes and Jackson’s foul trouble
The Grizzlies kept Xavier Tillman Sr. in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game, but they made rotation adjustments. John Konchar replaced a struggling De’Anthony Melton and played three first-half minutes. Jaren Jackson Jr. was foul in foul trouble again, but starting Tillman allowed Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins to turn to Clarke when he pulled Jackson. Clarke had 12 first-half points while playing more than twice as many minutes as Jackson.
Jackson led the Grizzlies with a +4 plus-minus in the first half, but he only played eight minutes. He fouled out midway through the fourth quarter and played 18 minutes.
Ja Morant drives for the winning layup to beat the Timberwolves.
Intensity rises in Game 5
Game 5 played out how many people expected. There was trash-talking, fun banter, technical fouls and referee commentary. Patrick Beverley was dribbling…