MEMPHIS: Ja Morant scored on a layup with a second left, and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to edge the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) and grab a 3-2 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.
Morant, named the NBA’s most improved player on Monday, struggled mightily much of the game. But he turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points — including 9 of 10 at the free-throw line.
Morant came from the low post as the Grizzlies inbounded the ball with 3.7 seconds left and lost Anthony Edwards at the top of the key. That left him an open lane into the paint that he’s so rarely had in this series, beating Jarred Vanderbilt with his left hand on an underhand layup.
Morant finished with 30 and had 13 rebounds and nine assists. Desmond Bane added 25 points, and Brandon Clarke had 21 off the bench for Memphis, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 before fouling out.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Edwards had 22, and D’Angelo Russell added 12 and Taurean Prince 10.
Heat 97, Hawks 94
In Miami, Victor Oladipo scored 23 points, Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Heat moved into the Eastern Conference semifinals by beating the Hawks.
Tyler Herro scored 16, Max Strus scored 15 and Caleb Martin added 10 for the top-seeded Heat, who ousted the eighth-seeded Hawks in five games. And Miami got the series-clincher without Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, both of whom sat out Tuesday with injuries.
Trae Young’s rough series for Atlanta remained that way: He finished 2 for 12 from the floor, scoring just 11 points. For the series, the Hawks’ guard shot 32 percent against Miami’s swarming defense.
De’Andre Hunter scored 35 for Atlanta, which got 12 apiece from Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari.
Hunter fouled out with 41.6 seconds left, Miami clinging to a three-point lead at the time. The Hawks got a stop, taking over with 29.2 seconds remaining, and retained possession after a missed shot from Gallinari went out of bounds off Miami.
The Hawks never got another shot off, time expired and Miami moved on.
Suns 112, Pelicans 97
In Phoenix, Mikal Bridges scored 31 points in a stellar all-around game, Chris Paul added 22 points and 11 assists and the top-seeded Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.
The Suns never trailed but also never totally pulled away until the final few minutes against the feisty Pelicans. Once again, Phoenix found a way to close, improving to 50-0 this season when leading after three quarters, including 3-0 in this series.
Bridges closed the Suns’ scoring with two emphatic dunks in the final minute, capping arguably the best game of his pro career.
Brandon Ingram scored 22 points to lead the Pelicans. CJ McCollum added 21.
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