It just felt and looked like destiny. It happened around the 6:30 mark in the fourth quarter. The Memphis Grizzlies were protecting a two-point lead, defending their right for a Game 7 at home.
The Golden State Warriors–a team that was playing nice until that point–took off the training wheels and said, “Let’s go.” If there ever was a personification of that gamer-leaning-forward meme, that was it.
It started with an Andrew Wiggins 3 from the right corner to give the Warriors a 90-89 lead. Then a Wiggins steal and dunk, 92-89 Warriors. Then a Steph Curry 3. A Draymond Green dunk. A Kevin Looney putback. Another Curry 3. Then one from Klay Thompson.
Just like that, the Warriors were up 13 points, capping off a 17-2 scoring run. The Grizzlies didn’t know what hit them. Or maybe they did because Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins called a timeout perhaps to remind his team that a) this was an elimination game, and b) this is the fabled Golden State Warriors they’re up against.
Warriors substitute head coach Mike Brown must have also told his team the exact same thing at the huddle because guess what happened a minute later. That’s right–yet another Curry 3.
The Warriors ended the game (and the series) with a 21-3 explosion. It was as if they had that burst of energy tucked away in their back pocket, waiting for the perfect window to use it. There was no better time than this–Game 6 at home, without Ja Morant to steal the show. Game 6 at home, with Klay Thompson in uniform.
It’s been a while since Thompson played in a Game 6, his heroic alter ego Game 6 Klay was sidelined due to injuries. In his return, this is what Game 6 Klay did: 30 pts on eight 3s, hitting 50 percent of his field-goal attempts. You just can’t get any more Game 6 Klay than that.
He didn’t do it alone. He got help from Curry, who despite his horrible Game 6 shooting, found the stroke, again, at the best possible time. Curry drained two huge 3s in that final stretch. It was two gut punches to put the Grizzlies to sleep. He finished with 29 points.
Then there was Kevon Looney, who–after many variations–was finally inserted back into the starting lineup. The result was 22 rebounds, 11 of them coming from the offensive glass. He, too, was huge in that last Warriors’ run.
All these came together at the right time for Golden State, and the Grizzlies couldn’t help it. They’ve already done the best they could right up to that 6:30 mark in the fourth quarter. They’ve blown the Warriors out by 39 in Game 5 without Morant. They’ve extended the series to six games. At times, they made the Warriors look like a team of the past. But it’s just not their time yet.
The Grizzlies will have more chances, more years to grind, more tricks to whoop. Their season ends here; their run won’t. They’ve gotten this far. Watch out for the bounce back.
For the Warriors, this is the farthest they’ve been since the Kevin Durant era. They’re back in the Western Conference Finals, waiting for either the Phoenix Suns or the Dallas Mavericks. They closed out their series against Memphis in old Warriors style, reminiscent of the dynasty. Just eight more wins to know if it is, indeed, destiny.