The Golden State Warriors season is over after suffering a 117-112 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in a win or go home play-in game, just five days after beating the same Grizzlies team by double digits in the meaningful season finale.
Memphis was not the Grit and Grind team that defined the last Grizzlies playoffs era, yet the exciting young team that is now returning to the playoffs certainly showed their roots. They out-gritted the Warriors early and often. They out-grinded the Warriors early and often.
The Dubs looked like they knew they should win. Not in the confident, business-handling way, but in the “didn’t study for the test, didn’t need to” way. There was a level of entitlement to the way they played. They were sloppy, reckless, and simply slower to the ball than Memphis.
Loose balls went the Grizzlies way. Coin flip rebounds went the Grizzlies way. And with the pressure of a relentlessly pesky Memphis defense hounding them from every direction, the Warriors turned the ball over countless times (well, not countless times: 21 times).
Steph Curry and Draymond Green were trapped at every turn, and committed 13 of those giveaways. The wings didn’t move, didn’t cut, didn’t get up the court, and didn’t give their stars a chance to find success in those moments.
One team looked hungry — the other hungover.
It persisted for 45 minutes. With just over three minutes remaining the Warriors trailed by nine points, and you assumed it was over.
And then they rattled off nine straight: Green layup, defensive stop. Green layup, defensive stop. Jordan Poole three free throws, defensive stop. Curry two free throws, tied game.
They had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Curry found a rolling Green who badly missed a floater from a few feet out.
Overtime. And with it, a sense of confidence.
After 45 minutes of getting out-gritted and out-grinded, the Warriors had finally buckled their seat belts, and showed up with ferocity, tenaciousness, and a healthy dose of competitive spirit.
But now it was time to get out-played.
You can’t say enough good things about Ja Morant, or about Xavier Tillman, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, and Desmond Bane.
They were young, unproven, green. They were on the road. They had given up a borderline miraculous comeback to a team with championship DNA.
You expect a team like that to fold.
They did the opposite. Recognizing that they could no longer outwork the Warriors, the Grizzlies set apart to simply outplay them.
Curry — who played the entire second half — started to see his gas tank near empty, and Green’s sputtered as well. Morant, however, seemed to find a special gear, and his teammates followed suite. They broke down the Warriors with individual brilliance and handles, and repeatedly found open shooters beyond the arc.
They made one shot too many. They were the better team, just five days after they weren’t.
And now the Warriors season is over.