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Memphis rookies show Grizzly Grit in loss to Warriors

Klay Thompson did that thing again, and the Warriors blazed to a 27-point lead after three quarters. But the Memphis young guns snuck in a pretty wild comeback, giving the Grizzlies a chance, and restoring some of the vibes that were melted away by Thompson's fiery heat checks.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies visited the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, losing to the league's best team, 111-107. Many things happened in this game, many of them bad for Memphis and good for Golden State. Many parts of the game included Golden State players and fans giddily bouncing around Oracle Arena like they'd just swallowed several handfuls of pills at Coachella. There were also parts of the game where Grizzlies players clearly wanted to be doing literally anything else but playing professional basketball for money against the Golden State Warriors. Large swaths of the game elicited the statewide cracking open of beer cans in Tennessee. And yet, the basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors ended with a four-point margin. Perhaps, for the sanity of us all, we should leave it at that.

BUT, of course, we won't. And I intend to pump you full of the same cocktail of pale ale, jalapeno kettle chips, and doom that I imbibed last night. Just wait until we get to the fourth quarter, though -- it's like the kale-iest juice cleanse you've ever been on.

The First Three Quarters

For the first three quarters of basketball, things were -- well, things were really, really bad.

Marc Gasol started for Memphis, and didn't really show any signs of being hampered by his ankle injury, but still. This was still a Grizzlies team battling the best team in the NBA without Mike Conley (their obvious offensive starter plug) and Tony Allen (probably the best perimeter defender in the game). And the team missed Conley and Allen badly from the start.

The game started with Stephen Curry just completely torching Beno Udrih, who was trying hard, but good grief. On the offensive end, the Grizzlies' Conley-less muck-up-fest continued, with Jeff Green and others tossing errant, conviction-less passes willy nilly around the Oracle Arena court. The combination of turnovers and Curry bombs created a 36-21 crater after just one quarter (a quarter in which Golden State shot 15-22 from the field, bee tee dubs).

And this is where things just got bad. Maybe Dave Joerger should have caught wind of the Grizzlies' soul-killing body language (there was one possession where Gasol and Zach Randolph didn't even bother getting back...on offense) and just yanked the starters right there in the second quarter. But boyyy did he not do that -- instead leaving them as impotent bystanders as Klay Thompson stormed through like he'd gotten one of those stars in Mario that makes you invincible for like thirty seconds.

Some attempts at describing what Klay Thompson did in the second quarter:

  • It was like a scene in a movie where Thompson played himself but all the Grizzlies were being played by sixth graders. Then Thompson scored a bunch of points.
  • It was like Thompson was a giant bunny rabbit bounding through the grass, eating the most beautiful carrots. The Grizzlies were the grass.
  • It was like the Grizzlies were all dead, and Thompson was the only one who was alive.
That might be enough for now, as I am getting the taste of beer and jalapeno chips in my mouth again. But honestly: is there anyone in the NBA who can do what Thompson does (besides Thompson's own teammate and the maybe-MVP, Curry)? When Thompson gets hot -- and I mean just-off-Satan's-stove hot -- he runs around like a frantic bunny (why do I keep imagining Thompson as a bunny?) trying to get open, and then just hops into the air and jacks up a shot. There is a frenetic energy to Thompson's hot streaks -- like he's saying, Gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme. It's like he's playing hot potato with the basketball -- except what is hot is his own white-hot palms.

Okay, enough about Klay. Let's get to the fourth quarter.

The Fourth Quarter

This is where things got pretty interesting. The quarter started with the Grizzlies trailing by 27 points, so most of the quarter was played by the fivesome of Russ Smith, Jordan Adams, Jon Leuer, JaMychal Green, and Jarnell Stokes. And, well, after the Second Quarter Klay Thompson Blitzkrieg, the most preposterous thing imaginable happened: the Grizzlies had a chance. They had the ball, down four, with 11.7 seconds to play. I confess that I daydreamed (it was midnight at this point -- nightdreamed?) of Jordan Adams getting fouled and hitting a three, which, seriously, aren't the Grizzlies due one of those one of these days?

There isn't a whole lot to say about the fourth quarter except that the Warriors' bench guys were very lethargic, and the Grizzlies' bench guys actually gave quite a shit. So much so that just for a second Steve Kerr had to be like, "Should I put Curry and Thompson back in?"

So yes, the Grizzlies bench nearly pulled off what would have been a C-R-A-Z-Y comeback, and yes, the play of the rookies was promising, but the real story of the fourth quarter was the positive energy those young guys restored.

By the end of the game, bench players (who are, mind you, the Memphis starters and rotation guys) were leaping up, high-fiving, running onto the court to greet their teammates. I felt a sense of what was not unlike happiness. Hope -- not just for that game (but kind of for that game), but for the Grizzlies' playoff chances, too -- crept back in.

Let's be real: last night's game should not have felt representative of anything. Memphis was without Conley, Allen, and about half of Marc Gasol. My translation app might be off, but it looked like their body language was saying, "We don't give a fuck who we're playing in the playoffs. Can we please just get there already?" Our collective reaction to last night's game should have been "Aw shucks!" before going on with our day. Then Klay Thompson happened, and a sense of dread as wide as the Volunteer State wedged itself into our hearts. I felt it. You did too.

But then, the fourth quarter happened. And the energy and positive juju of the Memphis Grizzlies rookies restored the vibes that never should have been lost in the first place.

At this point, I'm done worrying about what seed the Grizzlies get. The difference between the 2 and the 6 seed is one freakin' game. If Memphis is healthy, they can play with anybody -- yes, even the Spurs (operative words: "play with"). Let's just ride on that fourth quarter rookie juju, and let the rest of the game self-immolate with Klay Thompson.