The Memphis Grizzlies were facing elimination at home without their best player on the floor. Naturally, they did what any respectable team would do given these odds: put everything on the line.
Right from tip-off, Memphis looked very much like the team we saw many times when Ja Morant was sidelined due to injuries. This team knows how to win without Morant, as long as everyone else chips in.
That’s exactly what everyone did. Jaren Jackson Jr. was up first. He scored 10 points in the first quarter, the same amount of lead the Grizzlies built. Tyus Jones and Desmond Bane then poured in the points in the second quarter, widening the gap to 27 points. It was pretty much over right there.
The Warriors tried to fight back in the second half, but the Grizzlies had already made their minds. They were not going anywhere. The lead ballooned to 30, then to 40. Towards the end of the third, Draymond Green had nothing left to do but join the Memphis crowd in whooping that trick.
“I appreciated the crowd tonight and the energy they brought to the game. If they wanna whoop that trick, we gonna whoop it together,” Green said after the game.
Steph Curry brought this upon themselves. Before the game, Curry was asked about their game plan against Memphis. His response: “Whoop that trick.”
Memphis responded in the best possible way they should. Creating havoc on defense and crashing the boards like their season depended on it. That spelled the difference. The Grizzlies outrebounded the Warriors and had 14 more offensive rebounds. They also forced the Warriors to 22 turnovers, versus the nine of their own.
All these created more opportunities for the Grizzlies and more chances to take more shots, which unfortunately for Golden State, dropped this time. Jackson, Bane, and Jones all scored 21 points each, with four more Grizzlies scoring in double figures. The Warriors, on the other hand, suffered another bad game from Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
Game 6 swings back to Chase Center and, again, the Grizzlies’ backs are against the wall. They’ve now figured out how to beat–and dominate–the Warriors without Morant, and the challenge now is how to keep that same energy in a not-so-welcoming environment.
The dominant Game 5 win at home without Morant is even more proof that the Grizzlies’ grit is a real problem. If they’re able to push the series to a deciding Game 7, then it simply becomes an undeniable truth. No more dancing required.