With a recipe for a defeat in the making, the Golden State Warriors rewrote the script and walked away with a win, in large part due to their championship versatility.
"You told me! You f—ing told me! God damn you told me!" uttered Draymond Green to Stephen Curry as he embraced each member of the Golden State Warriors (players and staff) one-by-one as they headed towards the exit tunnel. Golden State had stolen home-court advantage in the series with a 117-116 win on the road against a tenacious Memphis Grizzlies team. And though the script was being written for a Grizzlies comeback win, the Warriors rewrote the ending based in large part due to their championship versatility.
The key difference here was that the championship DNA wasn’t on display solely from the Warriors’ experienced roster of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney or Draymond Green (who was assessed a flagrant two foul and ejected in the second quarter). Rather, that resilience and versatility was illustrated by young cornerstones and new faces alike: Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, and Gary Payton II were all among the contributors that rose to the occasion in significant moments.
Poole, coming off the bench to start the game, was quickly ushered back into the starting lineup in the second half following Green’s ejection. And in his response, he tallied his playoff career high (31 pts) and held Ja Morant (34 pts) accountable on the defensive side of the ball.
Andrew Wiggins, who has struggled at the charity stripe since the latter half of the regular season, hit two clutch free throws in the fourth quarter, and his aggressiveness on the boards (eight rebounds) was key in Golden State actually winning the rebound battle.
Gary Payton II, who notched a starting spot to begin the game, pitched in six rebounds and always found himself in the right position to make the right play, whether it be off an assist from Curry or helping fend off a potential Ja Morant game-winner.
Poole, Wiggins, and Payton II were just a few of the newcomers that stepped up to the plate when the odds were stacked against Golden State, effectively doing the little things that helped make a significant impact. It’s those contributions, the ones that go under-the-radar based on the eye test but most certainly are felt in the larger sense, that are a vital component of a championship contender’s DNA.
It’s no surprise that Curry, Thompson, and Green have that DNA. But seeing the newcomer’s flex that same resilience and versatility, speaks volumes to why this Warriors roster is built for the long-haul this postseason.