The Golden State Warriors emerged victorious in Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies, stealing home-court advantage in the process. On Tuesday evening, Memphis entered Game 2 in a desperate position, badly needing to avoid an 0-2 deficit as the series shifts to San Francisco. While it wasn’t a breeze for the Grizzlies, Ja Morant keyed a furious close for Memphis, and the end result was a 106-101 victory to even the series at 1-1.
Memphis started the night with a statement in the form of an 8-0 run. Golden State missed its first four shots and committed three turnovers, with the Grizzlies seizing immediate control.
Then, fireworks began when Grizzlies starting wing Dillon Brooks was ejected. Brooks effectively clotheslined Gary Payton II, earning a Flagrant-2 foul and a very quick exit. Unfortunately, Payton II was also sidelined as a result of an elbow injury.
Gary Payton II (left elbow) will not return to tonight’s game.
— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) May 4, 2022
Golden State awakened from there, using a 10-2 run to tie the game. While the Warriors never held the lead in the opening period, Stephen Curry was dynamic with 11 points and his usual gravity.
Memphis held an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter, with Morant (14 points) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (10 points) producing at a high level. In fact, that dynamic pairing came together for a buzzer-beating triple that sent the FedExForum crowd into a frenzy.
Early in the second quarter, the Warriors trimmed the margin, but the attention was largely on a poster-worthy play from Andrew Wiggins. The 2021 All-Star essentially annihilated Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke and, while it was worth only two points, many will relive the dunk on repeat in the coming days.
Histrionics aside, the majority of the first half was bumpy in nature for both offenses. Neither team approached its usual level of efficiency, with the Grizzlies falling short of their usual impact on the offensive glass and the Warriors committing 11 turnovers to go along with 4-for-19 shooting from three-point range. With that said, Morant was brilliant with 23 points and five assists for the Grizzlies, leading Memphis to a five-point halftime lead.
Memphis began the second half with energy reminiscent of the first half. The Grizzlies scored the first six points, opening their largest lead of the evening at 62-51, and the Warriors were forced into a corner.
In typical fashion, Golden State came out swinging, almost immediately cutting the margin back to four. That included transition work from Jordan Poole, as the Warriors turned defense into an offense.
The overall tenor of the third quarter was similar to the first half, though, as neither team scored at an efficient level. Memphis shot 30 percent from the floor, with Golden State missing eight of its nine three-point attempts. Still, a 13-3 run from the Warriors tied the game at the end of the third quarter, setting the stage for real drama in the closing period.
To open the fourth quarter, Golden State took its first lead of the game, holding Memphis to only six points in more than eight minutes dating back to the third quarter. Rookie forward Jonathan Kuminga gave the Warriors quality minutes off the bench, teaming up with Otto Porter Jr. to buoy Golden State’s frontcourt.
Not to be outdone by his rookie counterpart, Grizzlies first-year forward Ziaire Williams came up with a huge sequence. He converted back-to-back triples to stop the Grizzlies’ offensive and give Memphis the lead again with less than eight minutes remaining.
The two teams continued to trade punches from there, including a pair of three-pointers from Curry. The first of the pair was banked-in, and the end result was a four-point lead for the Warriors.
Morant kept coming, scoring 15 consecutive points for Memphis. That stretch included two different buckets to flip the lead back in Memphis’ direction.
Up by one point with 40 seconds remaining, Morant continued his ridiculous stretch, scoring amid chaos to give the Grizzlies more breathing room. After a traveling violation by Klay Thompson on the other end, Morant converted a pair of free throws to extend the lead to five points with 13 seconds left. When Curry missed on the other end, the result was academic, and Morant was the story of the night.
The 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player finished with a career-high playoff 47 points on 15-for-31 shooting, with 5-for-12 from three-point range and 12-for-13 at the free throw line. Morant also added eight rebounds and eight assists, joining the elite company in reaching the 45-point mark for the second time in his young playoff career.
Ja Morant is the 3rd player in NBA history to have multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old, joining LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/NAgaTh5QCN
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2022
Though Memphis did not shoot exceedingly well as a team, the Grizzlies won the turnover and free throw battles, in addition to Morant’s individual brilliance. The Grizzlies did have the edge from three-point range, however, as the Warriors scuffled to 7-for-38 from long distance. Golden State held an 18-point edge in the paint, but the Warriors couldn’t overcome Morant, poor shooting, and poor ball security.
Memphis picking up a Game 2 win adds considerable drama to the series, especially with the Warriors set to host the next two games at Chase Center. Game 3 arrives in prime time on Saturday, with all eyes on Morant and whether he’ll be able to lead Memphis to a road win that would steal home-court advantage back from Golden State.