To hear Ja Morant tell it, the adjustments he made in Game 2 of the Memphis-Timberwolves first-round NBA playoff series were pretty simple.
In Game 1 on Saturday, he had more room to score on the Timberwolves defense, so he did. The guard had 32 points, but the Grizzlies lost 130-117.
In Game 2 on Tuesday, the Wolves tried to limit Morant's scoring, so he passed more. He finished with 23 points and 10 assists as Memphis won 124-96 to even the series at 1-1.
"I pretty much just read the defense," Morant said before Thursday night's Game 3 at Target Center. "They take me away, I know my teammates are open. They take my teammates away, then I go score. Cat and mouse, pretty much. Not as hard as you would think."
Morant contributed a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Grizzlies' 104-95 victory over the Wolves on Thursday.
For the Wolves, defending Morant in the series has been as hard as you would think. Ahead of Game 3, the Wolves talked about the difficulties they had trying to contain him with multiple defenders and how hard it is to defend him without fouling.
"It's tough," forward Jaden McDaniels said. "He's crafty, super fast. It's not just one of us guarding him, it's us as a team all just helping each other."
Guard Patrick Beverley has spent the most time guarding Morant one-on-one, and McDaniels has also spent his share of minutes — and had some success — defending him toward the end of Game 1. The Wolves wanted to try and limit Morant's ability to get into the paint. Even though he did a better job beating the Wolves at that in Game 2, that was still going to be their focus in the series moving forward.
"Just try and keep him out of the paint. That's where he's most effective," McDaniels said. "Try and keep him out of there and make other people make plays.
"... His motor is high. He likes to go left, right, really either way. When he gets to the basket, he's really crafty, finishes with both hands. It's hard to guard him."
McDaniels also said Morant plays taller than his listed height at 6-3.
"It kind of seems like he's as tall as you because of how high he jumps when he gets past you," said McDaniels, who is 6-9. "Try and keep him in front. When he gets past, he jumps so high he's like 6-10."
Forward Taurean Prince said even those who aren't guarding Morant on the ball have to be "very aware" of what he's up to at all times. It also requires them to "know your personnel," or KYP, as Prince phrased it.
"Who you can help off of, who to over-help off of, stunt off of — all of that is taken into account," Prince said.
A big point of emphasis for the Wolves in this series has been to limit Memphis in transition. Morant is the main catalyst of that. When the Wolves are playing their best in transition, they are doing more than just running back.
"Declaring [who's guarding the] ball, protect the rim and find the shooters," Prince said. "That's pretty much the steps to it. Being in gaps if Ja has the ball opposite, given how quick and elusive he is."
Morant's ability to take it coast to coast is one part of Memphis' transition engine, coach Chris Finch said, but Memphis also can get the ball down the floor quicker than most teams.
"They leak out on the shot. They got really good rebounders," Finch said. "They have the confidence to leak out behind you and throw it ahead."
"... Got to get five guys below the ball, underneath the ball. Got to try and plug all the early gaps with Morant."
The Grizzlies made an adjustment to their starting lineup in Game 3. They removed Steven Adams, who played just three minutes in Game 2, in favor of Kyle Anderson.
The Grizzlies' plan was to try and guard Karl-Anthony Towns with a smaller, quicker frontcourt.