The free throws and fouling defined the 1st quarter for both teams. It’s not very often Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole all pick up 2 fouls in the 1st period. The first 12 minutes were back and forth. Grizzlies couldn’t generate separation due to poor field goal shooting and inopportune missed free throws, and the Warriors couldn’t capitalize because of turnovers. The Warriors led 24-22 after one.
The second quarter remained close. The offense still couldn’t find a rhythm, but Tyus Jones tried to get things going off the bench with his scoring. The Warriors only hit 6 first-half 3’s, but they were able to crack the Grizzlies’ defense for downhill scoring opportunities. Ja Morant and Santi Aldama were on a roll to close the half, giving the Grizzlies a 54-53 lead at intermission.
It wasn’t the best start for the Grizzlies to start the 2nd half, as Desmond Bane got postered by Jonathan Kuminga, then the Warriors scored 5 more straight points. However, the Grizzlies built a lead with improved outside shooting. Brandon Clarke also had a sweet alley oop over Draymond Green that resulted in a double tech for trash talk. The Grizzlies built a lead into double digits. The Warriors got it back down under single digits, and Steph Curry hit a 4-point play to tie it. The Grizzlies, though, extended the lead back to 6 before the start of the 4th quarter.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was aggressive offensively in the early part of the quarter, but unfortunately he was too aggressive defensively too. He ended up fouling out in the quarter, picking up all 6 of his fouls in the 2nd half. The Warriors closed the gap, and Stephen Curry tied it with a jumper midway through the period. With roughly a minute left, Curry was ejected for throwing his mouthpiece in frustration of a Jordan Poole jumper (quite hilarious). Free throws came back to bite again, as Desmond Bane missed the technical free throw — while also splitting a pair just a few possessions prior.
Ja Morant tied up the game with a slick drive, ball fake, and finish. A few possessions later, after Draymond split 2 free throws, Morant helped the Grizzlies take a lead with another take to the basket. Unfortunately, Thompson answered with a triple. The Grizzlies got a good look at the end, as Morant forced the defense to collapse the drive to feed Clarke for a jam.
To close the game, as it was tied up, Poole froze Williams on a cut to the basket to win the game.
Warriors win 122-120.
- The free throw element needs to be fixed. The Grizzlies are the worst free-throw shooting team in basketball at 71.2% (3 percentage points worse than the 2nd-worst team). It plagued them in LA Friday night, and the troubles continued tonight — shooting 70.3% (26-37) from the line. They just seemed inopportune as well. Morant missing 5 free throws is a high mark for a point guard, and it’s an area he has to shore up as a slashing point guard. A shooter of Bane’s prowess missing two of his 6 attempts is rare, and his miss on the technical free throws was tough for Memphis. The Grizzlies need to lock in at the foul line; it’s honestly the only flaw could legitimately cost them in the playoffs.
- The Ziaire Williams element. Ziaire Williams will be picked out as a scapegoat — team-worst -17 in a 2-point loss, jumper wasn’t falling (0-6 from 3), and got burned on the defensive play that ended the game. He forced it and seemed a bit fazed from the shooting slump as well. This game doesn’t define him. He’s young and has shown flashes of being a good 3-and-D wing for this team, after coming back from an offseason knee injury. The Grizzlies need him to elevate to become the team’s 3rd-best wing here soon, and they should look to help him find his confidence and flow — more mid-range jumpers, more minutes with Ja, and letting the offense come to him. He will be fine, and the Grizzlies do need him to be fine soon — both can be true.
- The frontcourt guys stepped up. Steven Adams’ injury is a blow to Memphis, but Brandon Clarke and Santi Aldama stepped up in the first game without Big Kiwi. Clarke and Morant had good chemistry going in the pick-and-roll game throughout the period, posting a stat-line of 19 points (8-10 shooting) and 8 rebounds. Aldama provided the only source of offense off the bench for the Grizzlies — scoring 13 points, and making all 5 of his shots along with 2 three-pointers. It’s going to take a village to fill Adams’ void, and the Grizzlies need offense right now, but those 2 players were big in keeping this game close for Memphis.
The Grizzlies travel to Minnesota on Friday to take on their other rival, the Timberwolves, as they look to avoid a 5-game losing streak to cap off the road trip.