Memphis Grizzlies misses shot against Warriors after Draymond Green is ejected
The intestinal reactions of Memphis Grizzlies 117-116 loss to Golden State in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals playoff series.
Memphis misses its first shot
Draymond Green raked Brandon Clarke in the eye, ripped him out of the air by his jersey and completely changed Game 1 for the Grizzlies. But not the way it initially seemed, as FedExForum yelled “Throw it out,” Green faked them and eventually jumped off the field. after being ejectedurging on boos like he knows exactly what buttons to press in this pro wrestling town.
The Warriors suddenly found themselves without their best defenseman, and one of the mainstays that makes their dynamic small-ball lineups work so well. Memphis suddenly had an opening he may never enjoy again in this series.
So Sunday started off as a sensational game played on short notice, few thought they dictated the terms of this series. It ended as a game that left the Grizzlies faltering, a missed opportunity and undeniable momentum for Golden State.
It wasn’t the 2016 NBA Finals, when Green’s ejection and subsequent suspension pushed LeBron James and Cleveland past the Warriors. It was, in many ways, the Warriors doing to Memphis what Memphis had just done to Minnesota.
The Grizzlies controlled much of the game. The Grizzlies stars played well. But it was Golden State that kept him close when he wasn’t playing particularly well. It was Golden State that controlled the third quarter and early fourth quarter as Memphis took rushing and ill-advised shots. It was Golden State that continued to get open 3-pointers from offensive rebounds, with Klay Thompson landing the dagger that eventually got through in the Grizzlies with 20 seconds left.
It was Memphis, meanwhile, who couldn’t convert twice in the clutch, first on a turnover from Ja Morant before Thompson’s final basket, then in the dying seconds. Morant’s final layup attempt only hit the backboard, and he leaned against the post in shock as Golden State celebrated.
Both teams must have realized at that point that this first game had become more important than either could have predicted before it started.
Memphis is back on its heels, down 1-0 in a series and not much time to regroup. The Grizzlies will be greeted with Game 2 on Tuesday that will feature a lot more pressure because of what happened to Green and then what happened once he headed to the locker room.
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr released
The weirdest dynamic at play for Memphis is that Golden State is undoubtedly a better team than Minnesota, but it could be a better game for the Grizzlies. That’s largely because, perhaps more than anyone, the Warriors are a better match for Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
The two found themselves more locked in than usual in the first round. Both looked infinitely more comfortable in Game 1 against Golden State.
Jackson, who was coming off a rebounding double-double in Game 6 at Minnesota, responded with the most significant performance of his NBA career. He really got going during a 10-point second quarter, heading for the post to take advantage as the tallest player on the court, a caveat that will likely remain the case throughout the game. series.
Then Jackson (33 points) exploded after halftime, and FedExForum exploded with him, when he knocked down a streak of 3 points, including a few by penetration from Morant.
Morant put his stamp on the game early, knocking down two 3-pointers en route to 14 points in the first quarter. He entered the lane at will as the match progressed, quickly drawing Gary Payton II into trouble, between a host of acrobatic finishes to the edge. He finished with 34 points, but needed 31 shots to get there.
Yet, much like the Grizzlies, the duo looked more like each other. Until late in the first half, when Morant flushed an alley-oop following Green’s ejection, then passed Jonathan Kuminga for a buzzer-beating lay-up before halftime.
“He can’t keep me,” Morant said as the teams walked off the field, and that was a truth that will persist for the rest of the series, regardless of Sunday’s outcome.
Morant and Jackson are giving Golden State problems it might not have the answers to.
The quick turnaround before this series may well make the strategies employed for Game 1 nothing more than table-setters, but the unorthodox lineups used by Golden State have made for some fascinating matchups.
The Warriors, for example, started Payton to defend Morant, a move that also allowed Memphis to hide Morant against Payton on defense. Thompson spent time guarding Jackson. When Payton committed two quick fouls, Morant moved on to Otto Porter.
After halftime, Golden State turned to Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney in Green’s absence. Poole, one of the revelations of these playoffs, was a crucial element for Golden State to overcome the ejection of Green. He had a team record 31 points.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins opted for a simpler approach for Game 1. He started Xavier Tillman Sr. again and asked Brooks to defend Curry, much like he did in last year’s qualifying tournament. Jenkins also returned to using a 10-man rotation, bringing in De’Anthony Melton as the team’s first backcourt replacement after Melton was benched for the final games of the first round.
Melton responded with an inspired start, then also played in critical time, scoring 14 points, grabbing seven rebounds and displaying the aggression and confidence that propelled him in such a positive direction late in the regular season. If Memphis wants to win this series, it will take the added dimension of Melton off the bench to deal with Golden State’s plethora of shooters on the perimeter.