The Golden State Warriors began a difficult road trip on Tuesday, going up against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have arguably been the best team in the NBA over the past month and are now are just 2.5 games behind the Warriors after a 116-108 win on Tuesday.
Warriors forward Draymond Green’s absence loomed large in the first half. The Dubs offense was stagnant and turnover-prone throughout the first and second quarters. Led by point guard Ja Morant, Memphis remains one of the most dangerous teams in transition, and the Warriors' 12 first-half turnovers gave him plenty of opportunities to attack with a full head of steam.
The Grizzlies led 28-24 at the end of the first, but they extended their lead to 11 even with Morant sitting to start the second quarter. When Morant returned, Memphis extended their lead to 18. However, Curry settled in offensively as the first half wore on. He worked his way to the free-throw line six times in the first half and found a rhythm both as a shooter and passer.
Even during the Warriors’ worst performances this season, they have rarely allowed teams to maintain large leads. That was the case on Tuesday. The Grizzlies offensive outburst slowed as soon as Payton reentered and Golden State finally found the offensive flow to take advantage. Despite Memphis shooting better than 50% from three and the Warriors committing 12 turnovers, the Warriors trailed just 59-51 at halftime.
The Warriors scored 12 unanswered points to start the third quarter and Kevon Looney drew Jaren Jackson’s fourth foul of the game. Their third-quarter run peaked with an eight-point lead, but Golden State’s turnover woes opened the door for Memphis later in the quarter. Heading into the fourth, the Dubs led 90-87.
Gary Payton II was fantastic off the bench for the Warriors. Payton was the only Golden State defender that had any consistent success slowing down Morant and scored 13 points on eight shots from the field. However, while Payton was +9 in his 23 minutes of action, he was the only Warriors substitution on the positive side of plus/minus.
After 18 first-half points, Morant broke out of a cold snap in the second half late in the fourth quarter to seal the game. He finished with 29 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. The normally limited scorer Ziaire Williams was a huge secondary contributor for Memphis, making three threes and racking up 17 points. Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke, and Tyus Jones all scored double-digit points for the Grizzlies as well.
Curry did his best to carry the load offensively while filling Green’s shoes, but his 27 point, 10 rebound, and 10 assists triple-double was not enough to overcome a talented Grizzlies team. Klay Thompson finished a team-high +17 with 14 points in 20 minutes, but a missed open corner three in the final minutes loomed large.
Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica gave Golden State some added offensive punch, combining to score 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting, but no one stepped up in the fourth quarter. Jordan Poole struggled from the field while Andrew Wiggins was quiet in the second half. Without an explosive finish from Curry, the Warriors were unable to muster the firepower they needed, especially after committing so many early turnovers.
The Warriors road trip continues on Thursday, January 13th when they will play the Milwaukee Bucks at 4:30 PM PST.
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