Without Ja Morant, the Memphis Grizzlies had an opportunity to even the series with the Golden State Warriors. Memphis led almost the entire game but ran out of gas in the final minute, losing 101-98.
It was a tough loss overshadowed by the knee injury of their star player. It was nothing new for the Grizzlies, however, as they went 20-5 without Morant during the regular season. But this is the playoffs and you need all your guys, especially when playing a championship-caliber team like Golden State.
Game 4 was a hard-fought, low-scoring game that came down to the very end. Let’s look at who shined and who wilted with the grades.
Tyus Jones - 19 points (8-18 FG, 3-7 3P), 5 assists, 6 rebounds
In the absence of Ja Morant, Jones stepped into the starting lineup for the first time this postseason. His presence is nothing new to Memphis as he played a major role in the Grizzlies success without Morant all season.
The assist-to-turnover ratio god finished with five assists and just one turnover, made even more impressive by the fact he played 41 minutes. Jones’ methodical approach and ability to not be sped up by the Golden State defense was a big factor in slowing the game down all night and keeping the Warriors from getting into an offensive rhythm.
Jones’ only place for improvement was I would’ve liked to have seen him be more aggressive initiating the offense in the fourth quarter by getting into the paint to either draw the defense and find the open man or get to his patented floater. In retrospect, having Jones decide the fate of the game instead of letting Brooks continue to chuck shots could’ve been the difference in this game.
Kyle Anderson - 17 points (7-8 FG, 1-2 3P), 2 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals
Anderson was the first man off the bench for coach Taylor Jenkins and was the most valuable Grizzly the entire night. His length and switchability has been a major asset for Memphis against the Warriors active offense while his offensive efficiency on Monday made him a must-have on the floor for most of the game.
The only thing I have to dock Slow-mo for is the free-throw shooting. 2-7 from the line overall and 1-5 in the second half, in a tight playoff game you can’t be on the floor if you can’t make free throws.
Steven Adams - 10 points (5-9 FG), 3 assists, 15 rebounds
Adams started his first game of the playoffs in a few weeks after a bad showing against Minnesota and a positive COVID-19 test. His impact on the glass was felt recording 15 rebounds, six of which were offensive giving Memphis the second chance opportunities that made them so formidable during the regular season.
Adams finished with the highest +/– of any Grizzly at +13 but was not a part of the closing group for Memphis. I know he doesn’t give you a ton offensively or as an on-ball defender but his presence allows Jaren Jackson Jr. to roam the paint and gives you the rebounding to finish possessions.
For Game 5 I expect to see Adams in the starting lineup again and this time possibly a part of that finishing group to help protect a Memphis lead.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 21 points (7-21 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals
Jackson Jr. was a stud defensively as he has been all year, aided by the return of Steven Adams in the starting lineup that allowed him to play more freely on the defensive end. But without Ja Morant, he needed to pick up more of the scoring slack. Jackson finished with 21 points despite going 0-7 from three. Credit where credit is due, after starting 0-4 in the first half from deep, Jackson made a concerted effort to get inside taking advantage of smaller defenders Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr.
The only bad shot Jaren took down the stretch was his forced three-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds left, the shot was partially blocked by Draymond Green but there were also two other Golden State defenders in the area and there was enough time to find a better shot. With the season hanging in the balance, that was a hero ball shot but that’s why he’s paid the big bucks, to take those shots without Ja.
If the Grizzlies are to win on Wednesday in FedExForum, Jackson has to continue to hunt those good shots when he has the advantage and the outside shots will come within the flow of the game.
Dillon Brooks - 12 points (5-19 FG, 2-9 3P), 8 assists, 5 rebounds
In his return from a one-game suspension after a flagrant foul in game two Brooks struggled to score. He finished with 12 points but it would have been a single-digit total had he not hit a garbage time three as time expired. His passing was his biggest contribution to the Grizzlies offense, recording eight of the team’s 25 assists but his four turnovers were ugly ones.
Defensively, Brooks was tasked with guarding Steph Curry for most of the night and held up well through three quarters contributing to Curry’s 6-18 shooting. Unfortunately, they still play four quarters in the NBA and Curry would more than double his point total finishing with 32 as he scored 18 of Golden State’s 39 fourth-quarter points.
I think the injury to Gary Payton II and subsequent suspension played a big role in Brooks’ struggles, he heard the boos from the crowd from the moment he first touched the ball. With the narrative of him being a dirty player already in the ethos, Brooks looked to me as though he was trying to keep a low profile with less fire, no trash talk, and few arguments against whistles in an effort to not rile up the crowd further. At the same time, the crowd’s jeering definitely baited him into forcing shots early in the first half, and late in the game. Brooks has often responded well to hostile environments but this was a different situation and disappointing result.
Ziaire Williams: B
Effective and flashy in his role, would’ve liked to have seen some more of Dillon Brooks’ 39 minutes go to Williams in the second half.
Brandon Clarke: C
Clarke has turned into a bit of a pumpkin in this second round, his touch that was so spot-on against Minnesota is gone and I’m convinced he’s only hunting back tap offensive rebounds ever since the one that led to Ja’s big three against Minnesota in game 5, two hands BC, two hands.
Desmond Bane: C-
Bane is clearly banged up and played like it once again as Golden State made him the focus of their defensive energy without Ja Morant. No real takeaways from this performance, but he has flourished this season as a distributor in the absence of Morant, 6 assists in Game 4 and he should continue to be used as a passer if his back continues to be compromised.
De’Anthony Melton: F
This has been a bad postseason for Melton, best thing he did was not return for the second half.
Team Grade: B-
I know it wasn’t the end result Grizzlies fans wanted but Memphis led the entire game until 45 seconds left in the game on the road without their best player. Closing out playoff games like this one comes with playoff experience, something the Warriors have a lot more of than Memphis.
The effort was there but the execution especially in crunch time was not. The really disheartening part of this loss is that the Warriors may have played their worst playoff game of the Steph/Klay/Draymond era and the Grizzlies still couldn’t take advantage. Still, it’s only one game out of seven and the Grizzlies still have a fighting chance with the series moving back to Memphis and Ja Morant’s status unknown.
The Grizzlies will look to try and extend this series, and this season, on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm local time. It’s going to be another fight, and we’ll see how much fight the Grizzlies still have in them.