Grizzlies Beat Warriors in Play-in Game; Will Face Jazz in 2021 NBA Playoffs

Adam WellsMay 22, 2021

Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant, right, drives against Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry during the first half of an NBA basketball Western Conference play-in game in San Francisco, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn

For the first time since the 2016-17 season, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the postseason thanks to their 117-112 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Friday. 

The Grizzlies earned a date with the Warriors thanks to their victory over the San Antonio Spurs two days earlier. They will look to keep their positive momentum going with a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Utah Jazz. 

Golden State had a two-day turnaround after Wednesday's heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors did have the benefit of playing this game at the Chase Center, but they were unable to hold serve on their home court. 

Memphis had to hold on for dear life after blowing multiple double-digit leads, including a 10-point advantage in the fourth quarter. 

In the biggest game of his young career, Ja Morant played like a superstar. He finished with 35 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. The 21-year-old made two floaters on back-to-back possessions in the final minute of overtime to seal the win. 

Stephen Curry took a little while to heat up, but he put up a game-high 39 points and made six of Golden State's 12 three-pointers. Draymond Green dropped a triple-double with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Notable Game Stats

  • Ja Morant (MEM): 35 points (14-of-29 FG), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals
  • Dillon Brooks (MEM): 14 points (7-of-22 FG)
  • Jonas Valanciunas (MEM): 9 points (3-of-6 FG), 12 rebounds
  • Stephen Curry (GS): 39 points (13-of-28 FG), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals
  • Draymond Green (GS): 11 points (5-of-11 FG), 16 rebounds, 10 assists
  • Andrew Wiggins (GS): 22 points (10-of-22 FG), 10 rebounds

Grizzlies' Depth Overwhelms Warriors

Coming into the game, there seemed to be two ways for Memphis to win. The first was find a way to shut down Curry. The second was to take advantage of the depth its roster had over the Warriors. 

Curry, who dropped 46 on 16-of-36 shooting in the regular-season finale between these two teams on Sunday, did come to life late after a slow start. 

With Curry taken out of his rhythm, the Grizzlies wasted no time asserting themselves to take the Chase Center crowd out of the game. They jumped out to a 22-11 lead seven minutes into the first quarter. 

Golden State seemed to get back on track with an 18-8 run to close the opening period down by just one. 

Instead of getting deterred by that late surge, the Grizzlies responded with a huge second quarter. They outscored the Warriors 32-20 to back up by 13 at halftime. 

Memphis' bench was doing all sorts of damage against Golden State's defense with Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr. limited due to foul trouble. 

Grizzly Bear Blues @sbnGrizzlies

Grizzlies reserves are outscoring the Warriors 25-13. Memphis leads by 13 at the half. pic.twitter.com/xYL34busEO

Peter Edmiston @peteredmiston

Especially considering the foul situation on JV and Jaren, that as a spectacular first half for the Grizzlies. Got unexpected contributions from the bench, Grayson Allen was huge, Xavier Tillman improved vastly after a shaky start.

Of course, the Grizzlies also have a star at point guard who steps up when the spotlight is on. Morant had more points midway through the third quarter on Friday (17) than he did in the entire game last weekend against the Warriors (16). 

Memphis Grizzlies @memgrizz

BIG 12 💪@JaMorant | #GrzNxtGen | @dillonbrooks24 pic.twitter.com/TdGa56lO4f

The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year set a career high with five three-pointers made

Memphis Grizzlies @memgrizz

TALK TO ME NICEE @JaMorant <br><br>20 points (4-7 from deep) for 12. <br><br>📺 @espn pic.twitter.com/gqdAdBttFd

#RingerNBA @ringernba

Ja Morant tonight pic.twitter.com/jENwAb2FXB

Kerith Burke @KerithBurke

The Grizzlies had 6 threes total vs Warriors on Sunday. They have 9 at halftime today. Warriors shooting 5/14 from three.

The biggest weakness in Morant's game has been three-point shooting. He only made 30.3 percent of his attempts behind the arc during the regular season. 

While you don't want to overreact to one game, if Morant is going to start consistently making threes, the sky is the limit for what he is capable of doing. 

Despite all of these elements going right, the Grizzlies found themselves in a fight because their shooting cooled off late in the third quarter and into the fourth. They missed 12 consecutive field goals before a Dillon Brooks' layup with 10:03 remaining in the fourth. 

That started a run of three consecutive scoring possessions, including a Valanciunas putback and Morant's fifth three. 

There was another moment late in the fourth when the Grizzlies let the Warriors go on a 9-0 run that helped them tie the game and force overtime. 

Grayson Allen and Xavier Tillman sparked the offense in the extra period with three combined three-pointers. Allen scored 12 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. 

The Grizzlies bench outscored Golden State's reserves 40-27. 

Three years after bottoming out with a 22-60 record, Memphis' front office went to work rebuilding the roster. Jackson and Morant were first-round picks in back-to-back seasons.

Valanciunas came over midway through the 2018-19 season as part of the Marc Gasol trade with the Toronto Raptors. 

Allen was acquired from the Utah Jazz as part of the Mike Conley trade. Xavier Tillman was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Sacramento Kings in November. 

All of these players form the core of this young, exciting Grizzlies team that is in the postseason for the first time in four years. 

Curry's Late Surge Not Enough to Lift Warriors

The Grizzlies appeared to be doing everything right to contain Curry early in the game. He did have 17 points at halftime, but it was on 5-of-14 shooting overall. 

When the Warriors made their run at the end of the first quarter, Curry looked like he was going to take over. 

ESPN @espn

CURRY FROM OUTER SPACE 🌙 pic.twitter.com/Y9MKqAW7y8

Instead, it would end up being another two quarters before Curry really made his presence felt again. He never quite hit the supernova level at his absolute best, but it wasn't far from that as the Warriors were trying to come back. 

ESPN @espn

STEPH CIRCUS SHOT 😱 pic.twitter.com/H1XdDp05gE

In the meantime, the Warriors were playing sloppy basketball and being outplayed in every facet of the game. 

Jeffrey Wright @JWright929espn

HALFTIME <br><br>The Good: Grizzlies are outshooting the Warriors. They’re 32-5 this year when doing so.<br><br>They’re outrebounding the Warriors. They’re 28-12 when doing so. <br><br>They’re leading at half. 28-11 when doing so. <br><br>They’ve made more 3s. 19-5 when doing so.

One of the biggest problems for the Warriors in both play-in games was turnovers. They committed 20 against the Lakers and 21 against the Grizzlies. Curry and Green were two of the biggest culprits in that area: 

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

41 Warriors turnovers in two play-in games. Cost them twice.

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

If the Warriors are eliminated tonight, pretty obvious which stat to highlight: 38 turnovers in two play-in games, 25 of them from Draymond Green and Steph Curry.

Green's scoring struggles continue to be a problem for the Warriors. He did make five of his 11 field-goal attempts, but there was never a point when it seemed like he was looking to attack the defense. 

On the Warriors' final possession in regulation, Green took a pass from Curry with the paint wide open because the Grizzlies didn't seem concerned about him beating them. His floater came up short, sending the game to overtime. 

Green did make a three in the overtime period, but the Grizzlies did an otherwise excellent job of keeping Curry out of the action. The two-time NBA MVP only took two shots and had a turnover in the final five minutes. 

The story of Golden State's season rested on Curry's shoulders. Despite a solid stat line overall on Friday, he wasn't consistent enough in the game for the Warriors to win. 

Even though this wasn't the ending the Warriors were hoping for, they have reasons to be optimistic about next season. They could have two first-round lottery picks if the Minnesota Timberwolves' selection isn't in the top three. 

Klay Thompson will be back after missing the past two seasons with a torn Achilles and ACL.

Golden State could easily be a title contender in the Western Conference with a healthy Thompson and a deeper roster with at least one lottery pick to help solve the roster's depth problem. 

What's Next?

The Grizzlies will play the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET.