Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoff Western Conference Semifinal series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors felt like a heavyweight fight. Both sides landed punches. Both teams got counterpunches in. There was tension, there was drama, there was a little bit of everything you could ask for from a game this important. The season was on the line for Memphis, in a hostile arena where the Grizzlies could expect a much better effort from Golden State than they gave back at FedExForum in Game 5. That is exactly what occurred.
And Golden State finished Memphis in the 4th quarter in a game that was close, until it wasn’t. The historic Grizzlies campaign has concluded.
Some takeaways from this game.
Dillon Brooks embraced being “The Villain”
Brooks was exactly what he has been his entire Memphis Grizzlies tenure in this game. He was a streaky/inefficient scorer that seemed to make his shots when his team needed them most. Defensively he chased Steph Curry and made him uncomfortable for much of the night. He got chirpy, he got physical (perhaps too physical at times after a flagrant one on Stephen Curry), he took it upon himself to try to save the Grizzlies - whether Memphis needed him to do it or not.
In this game, however, more often than not, the Grizzlies needed him to do it. Draymond Green defended Jaren Jackson Jr. much of the contest and held him in check. Tyus Jones was limited by Andrew Wiggins, disrupting the flow of the Grizzlies offense. Golden State seemed content to let Dillon beat them, and darn it, he tried his best.
Live by “The Villain”. Die by “The Villain”. He did his very best to make up for what Memphis lost without Ja Morant. It wasn’t enough.
A bad night for bad Brandon Clarke to show up
The usually uber-efficient Brandon Clarke struggled mightily with finishing at the rim in this game, which is extremely uncharacteristic. Clarke was an ice cold 1 for 7 from the floor for the contest, which without having the time to look it up feels like it does not happen too often. BC’s defensive versatility holds tremendous value in terms of what he is able to do switching on to perimeter players, enabling the Grizzlies to be more aggressive in creating turnovers (where Memphis thrives, and where Golden State is extremely careless). But he had issues with rebounding in this one as well - only 2 boards in 17 minutes of play is not going to cut it.
He has had a tough overall series, except for the blowout win in game 5. That trend continued in this game. If he’s not able to offensively finish at the rim and help more on the glass, his effectiveness is questionable. Not indicative of how good he was this season overall. But this series could have gone better for Clarke.
- Desmond Bane did all he could. The return of healthy Bane continued in this one, as he both produced per usual from three and was able to get to the rim off the dribble and finish. He picked up some slack on the glass and found ways to get the ball in to good shooting spaces for the likes of Brooks several times. With Tyus Jones struggling with his scoring, Bane took on the role of the steady hand. It helped Memphis stay in the game.
- The rebounding did them in. When the Grizzlies lose the rebounding battle by 20+, it is going to be very difficult for them to win. Steven Adams injured his ankle before halftime and clearly was not himself - no offense to Kevon Looney, but 21 rebounds seems like a lot for him. Between Looney and Draymond Green/Andrew Wiggins also acquiring double-digit rebounds (only Adams had double-digit boards for Memphis) Golden State’s rebound domination helped them get extra possessions for the likes of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, who had very strong “Splash Brothers” games - Klay throughout the contest (Game 6 Klay is real) and Curry in the 4th quarter.
The season ends for Memphis with nothing for the team to hang their heads about. The Grizzlies finished tied for the best regular season record in franchise history and won their first playoff series of the #GrzNxtGen era. The future remains bright.
Without Ja Morant, the Grizzlies lacked a closer. Golden State has a couple. That, and the glass, was the difference.