By Terrance Turner
April 16, 2022
Today, the NBA playoffs officially began with a “quadruple-header” of four separate matchups. One of the most anticipated was today’s game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Memphis Grizzlies. But ESPN’s broadcast of the game was marred by some unexpected sound issues.
The problem began about midway through the first quarter, when the Timberwolves were up 28-17. ESPN’s audio suddenly malfunctioned, resulting in a metallic, rapid-fire clicking sound:
DraftKings described the noise as “what sounded like an overzealous jackhammer making its first attempt at doing NBA commentary.” ESPN tried to resolve the issue with a commercial break, but when they came back from commercial, the problem persisted:
Twitter quickly became a forum for disgruntled viewers, who made their displeasure clear:
The problem remained unresolved during the rest of the first quarter, with some users saying that they could hear ESPN staff testing out the audio while the game was being played:
According to Yahoo!, ESPN NBA studio host Mike Greenberg cut into the game after a commercial break, saying the broadcast was having “some technical audio difficulties”. While engineers in the production truck worked on the issue, ESPN had its studio team — Mike Greenberg, Jalen Rose and Stephen A. Smith — call the game from the studio. They provided commentary and analyzed the action for several minutes from the studio.
However, Smith came under fire for what some saw as a lack of preparation or research. As Barstool Sports put it: “Stephen A. can’t debate his way out of a paper bag at his full-time job about any sport other than pro basketball, so you throw him something spontaneous in the moment, even in the league that is his wheelhouse, and it just doesn’t go well. They should’ve just let Jalen Rose do the talking.” Twitter agreed:
Thankfully, the audio issue was resolved at the start of the second quarter.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “The Wolves’ bench played one of its worst games of the season the last time they played in Memphis, and it picked up where it left off in the second quarter. It gave back all of the lead within the first five minutes of the quarter. With the help of a 15-3 run, Memphis pulled ahead 51-49. It was an especially tough shift for Naz Reid, who picked up three fouls and committed three turnovers in four minutes in relief of Towns.
With 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining there was a fan disruption for the second consecutive Wolves game as a woman chained herself to the basket near the Wolves bench. It was another protest on behalf of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, which is protesting egg farms owned by Wolves and Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor.” (TNT’s Allie LaForce reported the woman who disrupted the play-in game did so in an effort to raise awareness about the number of chickens that were recently killed at the egg farm because of a bird flu outbreak.)
“Like it did Tuesday, the protest changed to energy in the arena and the Wolves, who were reeling, went on another run. They scored five straight points to take a 59-51 lead. Their lead would shrink by the end of the quarter,” as both Edwards and Morant had 19 points. The Timberwolves led 65-62 at halftime.
The ESPN team made no mention of the audio fiasco during the halftime show (though Stephen A. Smith found the time to comment on James harden’s pregame outfit). Timberwolves star Karl Anthony-Towns got the scoring started with a 25-point three-point jumper. Dillon Brooks (of the Grizzlies) responded with a three-pointer of his own. Things remained close until the Timberwolves began to pull away, courtesy of a dunk from Jarred Vanderbilt and a driving layup by Patrick Beverley.
During the midpoint of the third quarter, the game remained close, as solid shooting from Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. was answered by Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. Dillon Brooks drilled two back-to-back threes later in the quarter, but much of Memphis’ output late came from Ja Morant’s free throws. Karl Anthony-Towns helped contribute points for Minnesota. The Timberwolves led 97-92 at the end of the third quarter.
According to Yahoo! Sports, “Malik Beasley was the only other Wolves player in double figures at that point in the game as the Wolves carried a 97-92 lead into the fourth. The Wolves pushed their lead to eight early in the quarter on a Beasley three. They’d get it to nine with 5:23 to play when Jaden McDaniels put back a Towns airball. Then 10 with 4:34 left when Edwards drained another three.
The dagger came on a sequence that McDaniels initiated with a stop of Morant at one end. Then on the offensive end, he spotted up in the corner for an open three, burying it to put the Wolves up 120-111 with 1:39 to play. Fans began headed for the exits shortly after the ball dropped through the net.”
But the ‘Wolves weren’t done yet. After a clear-path foul by Ja Morant — who’d just made two free throws — D’Angelo Russell nailed both of his, making it 124-113. Anthony Edwards added two free throws of his own, pushing the lead to 13. The Grizzlies tried to rally, but additional free throws by Malik Beasley and a layup from Jaden McDaniels sealed the deal for the Timberwolves. They won, 130-117.
According to the Associated Press, Anthony Edwards scored 36 points in his postseason debut (tied for the fourth-most ever among a rookie in his postseason). Karl-Anthony Towns added 29 points and 13 rebounds. Malik Beasley had 23 points, and Jaden McDaniels 15.