In one of the best games of this year’s playoffs, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-116, giving them an early 1-0 series lead, and potential control of home-court advantage for the remainder of the best-of-seven series.
With a new opponent, the Warriors moved Gary Payton II into the starting lineup alongside Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry, displacing Jordan Poole to the bench.
After both teams exchanged three-point attempts for the first few minutes of the game, the Grizzlies’ picked up the physicality and the Warriors struggled to match up. Taking advantage of their size advantage, Memphis dominated the boards and kept Golden State’s shooters from getting many open looks, giving them a 32-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Warriors quickly faced another problem: foul trouble. Thompson and Payton each picked up their third fouls early in the second. Searching for something new, Kerr gave Damion Lee his first rotation minutes of the playoffs. On Lee’s first offensive possession, he along the left baseline and found an open Poole for a wide-open through. Poole knocked it down, and it sparked a 10-0 Dubs run. Alongside Lee, rookie Jonathan Kuminga had his most productive minutes of the postseason in the second quarter.
Ja Morant led the way for the Grizzlies, scoring 18 points in the first quarter, but De’Anthony Melton was a key contributor off the bench, scoring 11 first-half points.
Then, in the final minutes of the first half, Draymond Green swiped for a block on Brandon Clarke and made contact with his face, and grabbed his jersey as he moved away. Green quickly reacted remorsefully, suggesting it was an accident, and the referees went to the replay review.
Green deserved a flagrant one, but they called it a flagrant two, ejecting him from the game. Curry picked up his third foul of the game quickly after play resumed, and just like that, three of the Warriors' four best players were either ejected or in heavy foul trouble at the half.
Looney replaced Green to start the third quarter and Kerr opted to put Poole back into the starting unit for Payton. Perhaps motivated by Draymond’s ejection, the Warriors played their most effective defense of the game and prompted a back-and-forth quarter.
Still, the effects of Green’s absence were obvious. Young athletic big man Jaren Jackson Jr., exploded in the third quarter when he was guarded by Looney, scoring 14 points and grabbing multiple offensive rebounds.
Leading 91-90 heading into the fourth quarter, the Warriors had an opportunity to come away with a huge Game 1 victory in spite of Green’s ejection.
Draymond Green’s ejection shifted the tone of the entire game. Even with home-court advantage, the Grizzlies were considered underdogs by most. Now they HAVE to win Game 1 after Green’s ejection. It’ll be an uphill battle for the Dubs, but the pressure is on Memphis. https://t.co/xuktRN6iX5— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) May 1, 2022
Curry sat to start the fourth quarter, but Poole delivered several huge buckets, including a deep left-wing three, and assisted Thompson on a three in transition. When Curry re-entered with 7:23 remaining in regulation, the Dubs led 103-97.
Then, with 5:08 left on the clock, the referees returned. Curry was called for an offensive foul driving on Brooks. The Warriors challenged, and it seemed fairly clear on video that Brooks was not set. Had the call been overturned, Brooks would have fouled out. Instead, the call stood, and Curry was assessed his fifth foul.
Kerr trusted Curry, leaving him in despite his foul trouble. But the Grizzlies were not done yet. Morant led another Grizzlies charge that put them ahead in the final two minutes. The Warriors answered twice with equalizers and with 90 seconds to go, everything was tied at 114.
After gaining possession on a successful challenge, the Grizzlies drew up a fantastic in-bounds play, where Morant delivered an excellent pass to Clarke for an alley-oop finish.
Thompson and Curry each missed open looks as they tried to answer, but a forced jump ball gave Golden State another opportunity with 39.7 seconds remaining. Thompson got another open three, and this time he did not miss.
Trailing 117-116, Morant drove at Curry, but Steph made an amazing defensive play to force a steal. Memphis tried to force a turnover twice, but each time they let precious seconds come off the clock. With 6.7 seconds remaining, Thompson was fouled and went to the free-throw line.
And the Warriors free-throw line troubles returned with a vengeance. Thompson, a career 84.9% free-throw shooter, missed them both.
With 3.6 seconds left, the Grizzlies had one final opportunity. Thompson took advantage of the opportunity to make up for his missed free throws, helping Payton force a miss by Morant as time expired.
Curry scored 24 points. Wiggins and Thompson added 17 and 15 respectively. While Otto Porter Jr.’s shot continued not falling, he racked up a team-high 8 rebounds. Stepping up in Green’s absence, Looney added 8 points and 6 rebounds as well. However, Poole was easily the Warriors' best player. Coming off the bench, Poole led Golden State with 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Morant and Jackson combined to do the bulk of the damage for the Grizzlies. Jackson led them with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Morant recorded 34 points, 9 boards, and 10 assists. However, Melton cooled in the second half and both Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks were unusually quiet, combining for just 17 points on 6-for-23 shooting from the field.
Both teams will get one day off before facing off in Game 2 on Tuesday, May 3rd at 6:30 PM Pacific Standard Time.
No postgame shows this week.