There’s no love lost between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Pleasantries have been exchanged between the Warriors and the Grizzlies both on the court and on social media, stemming from a rivalry that likely began when Memphis eliminated Golden State in the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament. Both teams met again in the Western Conference Semifinals the following season, with the Warriors exacting revenge by eliminating the Grizzlies in six games enroute to the NBA title.
All the hoopla surrounding the defending champions and one of the young and talented teams in the NBA naturally led to a marquee matchup on Christmas Day.
Golden State entered the game in not so ideal circumstances, as they were 11th in the West at 15-18 and missing the services of Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and JaMychal Green. Meanwhile, Memphis had a shot at the best record in the Western Conference (20-11) and were finally playing with a complete lineup following the return of Desmond Bane, who missed 17 games due to a sprained right big toe. All of that and some special words from Ja Morant, gave them all the confidence in the world.
In the end, though, context never mattered.
The Warriors came away with a 123-109 victory, a statement win that showcased their depth and ability to fight through adversity. Jordan Poole got ejected for the first time in his career, but not before finishing with a team-high 32 points. Klay Thompson had a terrible shooting night, but managed to nonetheless finish with 24 points, nine rebounds, and game’s best highlight.
Donte DiVincenzo (19 points), Anthony Lamb (11 points), and Moses Moody (10 points) provided key contributions, but it was Ty Jerome who came in not just with points (14 points), but also provided the stability that allowed Golden State to come away with the win.
For all that talk, the Warriors have been able to back it up especially against the backdrop of four NBA championships in six NBA Finals appearances. They fully understand that the job doesn’t end in the regular season and they’ve been on both the right and wrong ends of it. Each Warriors win over the Grizzlies has been a lesson in such and while growth is well and good, it doesn’t mean a thing if the end results can’t speak for themselves.
This isn’t a major knock on Memphis, which has done a stellar job of building from the ground up, but simply put: there are levels to this. Golden State has been able to execute even when its stars are either absent or having a bad night. Meanwhile, Memphis must consistently replicate the run it went on last season, where Morant was sidelined, but the Grizzlies nonetheless continued to rack up wins.
One can go on and on about what worked well with the Warriors now and in the past, but at the end of the day, they continue to play as if they have something to prove. It’s been fair to ask “Which Warriors squad will show up?” as it’s been an on and off season for Golden State, where wins over the Grizzlies and the league-leading Boston Celtics were offset by losses to the Indiana Pacers (twice) and the Sacramento Kings.
As it stands, five games separate the Warriors from Memphis and how it will all turn out in the end depends on how both teams respond to their current situations. Golden State continues to navigate through life without Curry (for now) but they’d love to have him back sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will hope to put the loss to the Warriors behind them by maximizing their healthy lineup and taking things on a game-to-game basis.
The Golden State Warriors handed the Memphis Grizzlies a blue Christmas but it’s not the be-all and end-all, especially if they bounce back from it. It’s a case of big brother taking little brother to school, but as the latter continues to grow, the former usually steps aside, whether they like it or not.