The Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors are two of the NBA’s premier teams. That’s right — the two teams in the classic 2021 play-in are now two of the NBA’s heavyweight teams roughly 9 months later.
It’s really cool to see.
Going into this game, there was buzz around it unlike any other regular season game. The Grizzlies probably haven’t had a regular season game with this much hype since the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” days.
Surely, given the power of these two teams and the dazzling styles of Ja Morant and Stephen Curry, this showdown is capable of fireworks.
And fireworks happened.
After a slow-ish first 2 and a half minutes, the Grizzlies’ offense shifted into high gear. Ja Morant, specifically, was able to get downhill whenever he wanted, regardless of who was on him. Whether it was a dish to Ziaire Williams for a corner 3, or a bucket for himself, he was in control of the whole game through his drive. The roof about blew off the place on the Williams alley oop to Morant. Throughout that spurt, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s activity was fantastic defensively, corralling 2 steals and a block within the first 6 minutes of the quarter. The Warriors shrunk a 27-14 lead late in the 1st quarter, as the Grizzlies left the period with a 28-24 lead.
The second quarter turned into a 3-point party. Tyus Jones, Ziaire Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane were all attendees, as they combined for 5 three’s in the 1st 4 and a half minutes of the quarter. Williams also turned the crowd up with an alley-oop jam from Morant. The Warriors again closed the quarter on a really strong run, and they ended up cutting the Grizzlies lead from 18 to 8 — as the halftime score was 59-51.
The Grizzlies started out the 3rd quarter kind of slow. Jaren Jackson Jr. got his 4th foul early, which was pretty tough. Gary Payton II hounded Morant full court, which impacted the ways and angles in which he could attack. However, the Grizzlies got a nice jolt from Brandon Clarke, who provided a boost with his interior play offensively.
The 4th quarter remained tight, both teams going back and forth. The Grizzlies got a pop off another Ja Morant and Ziaire Williams alley-oop connection. Jaren Jackson Jr. was also massive on the glass in this quarter, corralling a handful of second-chance opportunities. Tyus Jones drilled 2 huge 3’s to extend the lead. One of the brightest moments of the quarter though was Jaren Jackson swatting Curry on 1 shot then Klay Thompson the next — Trip RULES.
After some heroics from Ja Morant, and stellar lockdown defense, the Grizzlies closed out the Warriors with a 116-108 win. They are now tied with the Utah Jazz for 3rd in the Western Conference, and they're 2.5 games behind the Warriors for 2nd, and 3 behind the Phoenix Suns for 1st.
Quick Hit Takeaways
- Ja Morant is a bonafide superstar. If you had any doubts before, this game should solidify it. The Warriors tried their best to slow him down, and he ultimately delivered when it mattered most. It was yet another game where Morant looks like the best player on the floor, as a Hall-of-Famer is on the other side.
- Ziaire Williams, the major growth opportunity. For a consecutive string of games, we’re saying “this is the best Ziaire Williams has played thus far.” Tonight, it resonates true. He was finding angles for lobs by running in transition and finding soft spots from the defense. He drilled his corner 3’s, and he also took on the massive defensive assignment of guarding Steph Curry. He’s a totally different player since coming back from injury, and if he hits the upside this front office sees in him, then he’s another prize in Zach Kleiman’s impressive draft record.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. is a future Defensive Player of the Year. So for those concerned about Jackson’s rebounding, he corralled 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes, and 8 in the 4th quarter. He swarmed all over the floor and made life tough for the Warriors when he was in the game. His consecutive blocks on the Splash Brothers nearly sent me to the moon. His growth as a defender, even in the midst of foul trouble, has been a marvelous thing to watch.
- Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke need to be permanent rotation fixtures, even when the rotations get crunched. These two players gave the Grizzlies a good lift. Tyus with his activity as an offensive attacker (17 points, 5 3’s, 6 assists), as well as a rebounder (8 rebounds). Brandon Clarke gave them a boost in the 3rd quarter with his floater and jam attack. They are pivotal to the Grizzlies’ bench attack, and they need to be written into the rotation with Sharpie.