If Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies had all the beauty of basketball mashed up together in 48 minutes, then Game 2 was just downright ugly.
The sweat hadn’t even soaked Gary Payton II’s headband and already he was hit in the head midair by Dillon Brooks. The blow knocked Payton out of orbit and sent him crashing down on his elbow, fracturing it in the process. This happened three minutes into the game.
A bit later, Draymond Green caught an elbow in the eye that forced him to get stitches in the locker room. While heading out the tunnel, he made not-so-nice gestures to the Grizzlies fans who were booing him. All these hideous things happened and we haven’t even talked about Klay Thompson’s shooting.
Thompson shot 5-of-19 from the field and connected on only 2-of-12 attempts from 3. As a team, the Warriors missed 31 3s.
More ugliness: the Grizzlies shooters—Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, and Kyle Anderson—combined for 3-of-17 from long range.
Yet somehow, despite all the misses and pain, Game 2 still had a bright spot—possibly the brightest spot the Grizzlies had ever seen.
Coming off a blown game-winner at the buzzer, Ja Morant came in with the worst intentions for the Warriors. He scored 14 of the Grizzlies’ 33 points in the first quarter while adding five assists. Without Payton on the floor (the only guy who had a slim chance of matching Morant’s athleticism), Morant looked like he was playing in a different league. Everyone was trying to keep up. Everyone was punching up.
When the closing minutes came around, it had the same feel as Game 1. The Warriors were up four points with four minutes left, looking to take a 2-0 series lead and kill the Memphis vibe.
Morant wasn’t having any of that. The ugliness stopped there.
He scored Memphis’ last 15 points, including the go-ahead jumper with less than two minutes left. When it all was over, Game 2 looked like a burning, bloody mess, and Morant walked away looking like the most attractive thing to ever hold a basketball.
Morant finished with 47 points, matching his postseason-high. In a similar fashion in Game 2 versus the Utah Jazz last season, Morant also scored 47. His explosion against Golden State made him only the third player ever to drop 45 points in multiple playoff games before turning 23. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the other players on that list.
When the Warriors won in Game 1, Steph Curry apparently told Morant that “we’re going to have some fun.” So when the Grizzlies won in Game 2, of course, Morant just had to return the favor.
As Morant and Curry met midcourt after the buzzer, Morant ran his mouth and said, “We’re going to have some fun.” He said it directly at Curry. He could’ve also been talking to fans. Perhaps, from what he’s been doing in these year’s playoffs, he’s telling that to himself.