The Memphis Grizzlies are champions of the NBA world.
Well, the NBA Summer League world at least.
Memphis defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-92 in Monday's summer-league championship game in Las Vegas behind a balanced attack that saw five players score in double figures. One of those players was Brandon Clarke, who was excellent again with a double-double of 15 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three blocks on his way to game MVP.
Grayson Allen impressed as well with 17 points and five boards, while Kelan Martin (19 points, five rebounds and three triples) spearheaded the losing effort for the Timberwolves.
Martin was unable to tie the game for Minnesota on the final possession, though, and missed a three-pointer that would have forced overtime.
There was plenty of drama in a back-and-forth fourth quarter after the Timberwolves overcame a double-digit deficit, but the Clarke and Allen combination was ultimately too much. Memphis went to the duo with the game on the line, and Allen's aggressiveness in isolation sets helped the victors extend the lead to 10 with just more than two minutes remaining.
Minnesota came charging back one last time and pulled within one with a Keita Bates-Diop three-pointer with 25 seconds left, but it couldn't hit the final three on its last possession.
It appeared as if there would be little tension at the start of the game when the Grizzles wasted no time setting the tone as they jumped out to a 23-8 lead by dominating every facet in the early going.
They used eight different scorers in the first quarter alone, which allowed Clarke to take a temporary step back after carrying the team for extended stretches earlier in the summer league.
The No. 21 overall pick out of Gonzaga finished with a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds in the semifinals against the New Orleans Pelicans and was named the NBA Summer League MVP prior to Monday's championship contest.
His ability to work in pick-and-rolls with the guards and clean up the glass has stood out, which is encouraging for Memphis because its eyes are firmly turned to the future after trading Mike Conley this offseason and Marc Gasol during the 2018-19 campaign.
Memphis has a solid young core with Ja Morant (the No. 2 pick in this year's draft) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (the No. 4 pick in last year's draft) but needs other young guys like Clarke to develop if it is going to contend in the upcoming years.
Neither Morant nor Jackson played in the summer league, but both were in attendance supporting the team for Monday's title game.
That support didn't stop the Timberwolves from storming back in the third quarter behind an extended 28-13 run that cut the deficit to two heading into the fourth. Memphis had no answer for Martin's three-point shooting as Minnesota turned the tide of the game much in the same way the Pelicans did when they overcame a 15-point deficit and forced overtime in the semifinals.
Just like that semifinal contest, the Grizzles made just enough plays down the stretch to prevail thanks to the presence of Clarke.
They made a point of getting him the ball in crunch time, and Allen provided just enough help to hold off Minnesota's final spurt and lift the trophy as summer-league champions.