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AP photo by Brandon Dill / Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant drives to the basket between New Orleans Pelicans guards Jose Alvarado (15) and CJ McCollum last Saturday in Memphis.

MEMPHIS — Ja Morant sees one big difference between the postseason in 2021 and now when it comes to the Memphis Grizzlies.

"Last year, we were playing in. This year, we're not," Morant said.

The Grizzlies are young, talented, deep and more than a bit confident after going from having to take the play-in route to the Western Conference's eighth and final seed a year ago to securing the No. 2 seed this season. Memphis finished the regular season 56-26, trailing only the Phoenix Suns (64-18) for the NBA's best record in 2021-22.

"Now, having that experience, I pretty much feel like we're ready. Not only on taking the leap to make it to the second round, but to the finals," said Morant, an All-Star selection for the first time this season and the league's rookie of the year in 2020, when the Grizzlies' season ended with a play-in game loss.

It's bold talk for a franchise that has never started a postseason seeded this high.

Memphis will start a playoff series at home for just the third time when the seventh-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves visit Saturday to tip off a pairing of the NBA's top scoring teams and two of its youngest rosters.

Minnesota center Karl Anthony-Towns believes this is a great matchup for the NBA. This series features two of the league's most exciting young players in Morant and Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards, and Towns said these teams could be the NBA's next dynasties.

"We'll go out there and make the ratings, and we'll make the show happen," Towns said.

Whoever tunes in should be treated to a fast-paced game: Both teams like to get up and down the floor quickly.

Minnesota led the NBA by averaging 115.9 points a game, with Memphis second with a franchise-record 115.6 points. Memphis led the league in fast-break points (17.7) with Minnesota fourth (15.2). Memphis was first in second-chance points, Minnesota fourth. The Timberwolves led the NBA in forced turnovers with the Grizzlies third.

So much of the Grizzlies' offense comes from their defense. Memphis is the first team to lead the NBA in rebounds, blocks and steals per game in a single season since they became official stats in the 1973-74 campaign.

"It's going to be a great series, a great physical matchup for us, a great test for us," Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt said.

Minnesota went 46-36 in the regular season and clinched the West's No. 7 seed with a play-in victory Tuesday against the L.A. Clippers. The Timberwolves are in the playoffs for only the second time since reaching the West's title round in 2004, and they lost in five games to the Houston Rockets as the No. 8 seed in 2018.

A year ago, it was the Grizzlies playing for their postseason lives by beating the San Antonio Spurs, then having to win on the road against the Golden State Warriors to earn the eighth seed. They even won their first-round series opener at Utah before losing the next four to the Jazz in a big learning experience for the Grizzlies.

The Timberwolves managed to beat the Clippers this week despite Towns, a two-time All-Star, shooting 0-for-7 from the floor in the first half and fouling out halfway through the fourth quarter after Los Angeles use multiple defenders to disrupt his rhythm. The Grizzlies are likely to lean on Jaren Jackson Jr. and burly Steven Adams to guard him.

Towns said he needs to play smarter, particularly if he finds himself in foul trouble again.

"If that's how the adversity for me is going to be this time around," he said, "I've got to be very disciplined in showing my hands, and just praying a lot and putting a lot of holy water on."

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