Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies came with aggression, determination and absolutely no fear, going at Golden State every which way – crashing the offensive glass to create extra chances, jumping in the passing lanes to force turnovers and getting far more production from the bench.
The Grizzlies had an answer for every Stephen Curry flurry, and now they’re going back to the playoffs.
Morant made consecutive jumpers in the final 48 seconds of overtime and scored 35 points, and Memphis advanced to the post-season for the first time in four years by holding off Curry and the Warriors 117-112 on Friday night in a thrilling play-in game.
“What a moment in time for the Grizzlies. Took a lot out of us all season long. It’s just a proud moment,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We gave it all we had to move on and I know we have more left. What a heck of a game. It took overtime against a heck of a ball club. There were so many things that don’t show up in the boxscore. We have to keep building, keep fighting.”
Memphis earned the No. 8 seed and advanced to face top-seeded Utah in the first round of the best-of-seven Western Conference playoffs. Game 1 is Sunday in Salt Lake City.
Jordan Poole hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:50 left in OT for Golden State only to see Xavier Tillman answer with a baseline 3 moments later. Poole lost the ball out of bounds leading to Morant’s basket with 4 seconds left, then Poole made another improbable 3 with 2 seconds remaining.
Morant shined on the big stage – now it gets bigger for him, Dillon Brooks and the Grizz.
“I know it’s a big accomplishment for all of us, but me and Dillon know the job’s not finished,” Morant said. “We’re not trying to be done making it to the playoffs. We have to lock back in to playing Utah who has the best record in the league.”
Morant also contributed six rebounds, six assists and four steals. He shot 14 for 29 with five 3-pointers as Memphis more than doubled its total from deep this time against Golden State to win on the Warriors’ home floor just five days after losing 113-101 in the regular-season finale.
Curry, who became scoring champion against the Grizzlies on Sunday, finished with 39 points and six 3-pointers while dazzling in front of an animated, roaring crowd of 7,505 in the biggest game yet at second-year Chase Center. He committed seven of his team’s 21 turnovers, while Draymond Green had six miscues but also a triple-double with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
“There were some pivotal turnovers that bit us a little bit, but I think the intentions were right and we were trying to make the right play, and sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” Curry said. “That is something to nitpick for sure. It’s a part of the game you have to have solid possessions and get solid shots. I loved our aggressiveness and our intentions. … It didn’t go our way.”
These teams needed every tick of the clock in the extra period to decide who moved on and who headed home for the off-season following a furious final minute-plus of regulation – and the NBA had to love it.
Andrew Wiggins tied it on a layup with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a pretty pass from new star Poole and Memphis committed a shot-clock violation on the other end.
Kyle Anderson made a pair of free throws with 54.9 seconds left after being fouled by Curry, who had just converted two free throws to tie the game at 1:12. Curry drove through the paint and drew the sixth foul on Jonas Valanciunas.
Then Curry let loose, just as he did all season in one of his best years yet at age 33.
Curry’s three-point play with 9:40 left got Golden State to 80-78, then he made a magnificent 3 the next time down while falling backward. Morant hit from deep moments later.
Memphis had to get to the post-season the hard way: winning a pair of play-in games.
The Grizzlies held off San Antonio 100-96 at home Wednesday night, then travelled back to the Bay Area. The Warriors lost a heartbreaker to LeBron James and the Lakers 103-100 at Staples Center on Wednesday.
“Obviously a crushing way to go out, two straight games that were basically gut punches,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We felt like we had control of the game the other night and lost and then really didn’t have the control of this one but could have won, we had the last shot in regulation. The ball just didn’t go our way.”
Golden State missed Curry Splash Brother Klay Thompson for the second straight season, this time as he nurses a torn right Achilles tendon suffered just before training camp that required surgery.
The Warriors fell short of returning to the playoffs for the first time since reaching five straight NBA Finals in 2019 before losing in six games to Toronto.
Memphis ended a three-year playoff drought since making seven straight appearances through 2016-17, and lost in the first round in its previous two trips and four of those seven appearances overall.
The Warriors wanted to be focused from the opening tip, expecting another hot start by the Grizzlies who delivered just that – making their first seven shots and three 3s to jump ahead 18-6.
Memphis went ahead early on Golden State last week and also against the Spurs. This time against the Warriors, they closed it out.