I wanted Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies to match the intensity of their series opener, and I got my wish. Here are my thoughts about that another exciting show put on by the two teams.
Ja Morant’s killer instinct is beautiful
This series could easily be 2-0 for either side. Seriously, it’s come down to the wire for two straight games with neither team ready to give an inch. There’s no doubt, though, that the Grizzlies would have lost Game 2 without Ja Morant, who finished with 47 points, eight rebounds, eight assists.
The Grizzlies fended off run after run from the Warriors in the first half, and never allowed them to take the lead before taking a 56-51 advantage into halftime. The third quarter saw the Warriors fight back and tie the game at 77-77.
Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth quarter after the Warriors finally took their first lead f the game at the start of the fourth quarter at 79-77 thanks to a layup from Jordan Poole, who followed that up with two free throws to make it 81-77.
Morant came back with just under nine minutes left in the game after having his eye checked out. His return energised both his teammates and the Memphis Crowd as the Grizzlies continued to battle back at the Warriors. Both teams played hard defense and the score was tied at 89-89 for quite a while. Steph Curry put them ahead again 92-89 with a bank three, and another triple made it 95-91 after the Grizzlies inexplicably left Curry wide open.
Some players may have wilted under the pressure, but Morant embraced the moment and took the game into his own hands instead. He scored all of the Grizzlies points in the 13-4 run that decided the game. He did everything including attacking the basket, making a stepback three, and making the free throws that iced the game.
This isn’t the first time Morant had to carry the Grizzlies to a victory in the fourth quarter, as he also had a similar performance against the Timberwolves. It’s safe to say that he might have another one or two of these nights in him before this series is decided.
The Warriors lost, but they’ll come back strong
The Warriors will be disappointed overall, considering they had a chance to seal the deal and take a 2-0 lead heading back to San Francisco. However, the way they were able to again come back from a double-digit deficit will give them some comfort.
They shot an uncharacteristic 18.4% from three as they went 7 of 38 overall, but Game 2 was still only decided by five points. If they get hot from beyond the arc in Game 3 and 4, they could very well be taking a 3-1 lead back to Memphis. However, the Grizzlies do deserve a lot of credit for the way they’re defending, which has made it hard to get easy looks. Still, when you’ve got three of the best shooters in the league at your disposal, you’re going to be confident playing in front of your own fans.
Curry led the Warriors with 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and shot 11 of 25 overall. He was a killer in the paint, but could only muster a 3 of 11 performance from beyond the arc. Jordan Poole was again a spark off the bench with 20 points, three rebounds and five assists, while shooting 8 of 16 overall and 1 of 6 from three.
One area of concern for the Warriors may be Klay Thompson, who had a second bad shooting night as he finished with 12 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals. He was 5 of 19 from the field and 2 of 12 from deep, which simply isn’t going to be good enough against a team of the Grizzlies’ caliber. Thompson also travelled with 17.3 seconds left in the game, which prevented the Warriors from a chance to get a good shot when the score was still only 104-101.
Golden State will also have to take better care of the ball. Yes, they were already the league’s second-worst team when it came to turnovers in the regular season, but the Grizzlies are too good at taking advantage of miscues. Memphis scored 10 points off turnovers, along with 18 total fast break points, which helped decide the close contest.
This series is going to be a gritty one
The tone was set early, as after the Grizzlies turned on the jets for an early 8-0 lead, another flagrant foul happened in the series as Dillon Brooks injured Gary Payton II while trying to defend a drive. Brooks was assessed with a flagrant 2 after officials reviewed the play, and he was ejected just three minutes into the game. Steve Kerr was unhappy about that foul and called it dirty.
On the very next play, Draymond Green went down after he took an elbow to the nose from fellow Michigan State University alumni Xavier Tillman. Green needed stitches and took a while to return to the game.
Ja Morant also took a big hit to end the first half as he tried to defend a drive, which saw him visually shaken up and unable to take part in the final play of the quarter that saw him still on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter.
Let’s hope that we don’t end up having any brawls that end up with suspensions, or any more injuries, because the two sides are clearly putting every ounce of their will and effort into playing tough basketball.