For most of their Game 4 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket. So at the end, they won it with freebies. Steph Curry went for 18 points in the 4th quarter, and the Warriors closed the game with 11 straight free throws to narrowly escape with a three-point win.
Curry led the team with 32 points after a rough shooting start where he started off shooting 6-18 from the field and 2-10 from three, not sinking his first triple until the final minute of the first half. Klay Thompson struggled as well, going 6-10 and missing all seven of his threes, though he did hit an enormous 20-footer to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to two points, seconds after re-entering the game in the final quarter. Andrew Wiggins had 17, Jordan Poole had 14, but once again, Otto Porter Junior saved the day with four big three-pointers, including two early in the fourth quarter when Memphis took a 12-point lead and threatened to run away with the game, with Curry and Draymond Green resting.
Draymond also made a huge block on Jaren Jackson Junior’s wild three-point attempt late, though Taylor Jenkins said he was “curious” to see the Last Two Minute Report on the call. You know, that guy has to be the most curious coach in the NBA. But to satisfy Coach Jenkins’ curiosity, here’s what it said: “Green (GSW) legally contests and cleanly blocks Jackson Jr.’s (MEM) jump shot attempt.” The report did say that the referees missed two traveling violations by Grizzlies players in the final two minutes. That’s very curious!
Jackson had a big game, leading the team with 21 points and blocking five shots. But after going 12-24 on his three-pointers in the first three games, Jackson went 0-7 from behind the arc. Replacement starter Tyus Jones scored 19, making three triples and dishing out five assists, with only one turnover in his 41 minutes. The Warriors were so concerned about Jones that they started blitzing him 30 feet from the basket late. Kyle Anderson had an outstanding all-around effort, one game after getting tossed in the fourth quarter, doing it all with 17 points, eight boards, two blocks, and two steals. It’s appropriate that after two days spent Zaprudering replays of every controversial play in the series, a guy named Slow Mo shined. Everywhere but the free throw line, where Anderson went just 2-7.
The Grizzlies were without Ja Morant, due to a knee injury late in Game Three. The Warriors were without Coach Steve Kerr, who tested positive for COVID-19 a few hours before tipoff. While the Grizzlies had a great record without Morant this season (20-4) and Mike Brown is undefeated as Warriors head coach in the playoffs, it was a clear disadvantage for both, though we would acknowledge that Morant’s absence might be slightly more significant. Kerr still addressed the team at halftime remotely, possibly to make sure that Brown, newly hired as Sacramento’s head coach, wasn’t going to secretly sabotage the team out of loyalty to Vivek Ranadive. Since the Warriors pulled it out, Kings fans should rightfully celebrate the game as their greatest playoff moment since 2006.
Despite what Taylor Jenkins might say, there is no evidence that Kerr got COVID from Jordan Poole touching his knee.
After the game, Curry said “It felt like we got traded to the Kings overnight,” trolling Sacramento fans and his temporary head coach. 12-0 in the playoffs, and still no respect! Harrison Barnes better be getting an apology text tonight, Chef! Disappointingly enough, Coach Brown didn’t dedicate the win to Kevin Martin, Boogie Cousins, Jason Thompson and all the other brave Sacramento soldiers enduring that 16-year playoff drought.
It was indeed a terrible offensive first half for the Dubs, who went 0-10 from three-point range in the first quarter and turned the ball over six times, and got only marginally better in the second, going 2-10 and only turning it over five times. Their vaunted guards combined to go 10-31, making only a single three ball, which was the 500th playoff three-pointer of Steph Curry’s career.. The team didn’t hit their first three-pointer until 20 minutes had passed, when Porter hit from deep.
How did the Dubs trail by only three points at halftime? With defense and rebounding. Memphis only shot 4-20 from distance in the first half, a statistic that makes Klay Thompson excited for multiple reasons. They also out-rebounded the Grizzlies 33-24, despite Memphis returning Steven Adams to the starting lineup - he had ten boards in the first half, 15 for the game. Draymond and Kevon Looney combined for 14 in the first half, and Looney finished with eight points and nine rebounds in a performance that said, “Why is Jonathan Kuminga starting ahead of me again?”
And while the Warriors played very sloppy with the ball, they weren’t reckless on defense, only committing five first half fouls, so they weren’t handing Memphis free buckets. In general, they seemed spooked by the Grizzlies’ big men. The team actually shot 50% on two-pointers in the first half, but took nearly as many threes.
When did the game finally turn around for Golden State? When Steph Curry changed his shoes. Curry wore special versions of the Curry 9 Flows honoring the late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager. After the game, he’ll auction them off to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation. Unfortunately, things don’t go well for Steph when he tries to raise money for Craig Sager. During All Star Saturday in 2017, just months after Sager’s death, the NBA did a charity shootout that raised 130K for the foundation. And then Ernie Johnson said they’d raise the total to $500,000 if curry could make a half-court shot. And Steph missed, nine times in a row.
So after 30 minutes of shots that clashed with the rim more than Sager’s suits clashed with his ties, Curry ditched the Sager Strongs in favor of his shoes from Game Three. Free from the cursed footwear, Curry scored through contact from Dillon Brooks to cut the lead to six. Then he hit a three-pointer to cut it to three, and Memphis started overreacting to Steph on defense.
After a Jordan Poole turnover, Otto Porter stole it right back from Brooks. Steph missed a three, but as has happened so often in these playoffs, Andrew Wiggins grabbed the offensive board, and found Poole, who got fouled, which got the Warriors into the bonus with more than six minutes to go. Brooks hit his first three-pointer in six attempts to stretch the lead to four, but Thompson immediately cut it to two as Ian Eagle shouted “GOLD-blooded!”
Anderson continued his almost-great game after that, putting back a Brooks miss at the rim, and then stealing the ball from Thompson, but he couldn’t stay in bounds. Given new life, Klay hit Steph for another triple.
Jackson blocked Curry, and Wiggins responded by blocking Desmond Bane, then tipping the loose ball to Poole, who completed a wild one-man fast break to get the Warriors within a point.
The Warriors unsuccessfully challenged Draymond’s fifth foul on JJJ, who split his free throws and hit a layup to regain the lead for Memphis, after Curry tied it with a layup - the last field goal the Warriors would make, with 3:25 left. Kyle Anderson missed his fourth straight free throw before hitting one to stretch the lead to three points, and after Klay turned the ball over and got blocked by Slow Mo, he returned the favor, rejecting Dillon Brooks.
Then the parade to line began. Poole drew a foul off-ball from Bane, and then Curry drove on Brooks and got himself to the line. With 45 seconds left, the Warriors took their first lead of the game. Jackson missed a tough one, and Bane fouled Curry on the rebound. Green’s block on Jackson effectively ended it, but Curry hit 8-8 down the stretch. As a team, they closed the game with 13 straight free throws, the streak only broken by a Wiggins miss that only mattered for gambling purposes.
Speaking of gambling purposes, Dillon Brooks hit a desperation 38-footer at the buzzer to make the final margin 101-98, which probably caused some huge swings at Draft Kings. That was one of Brooks’ two three-pointers in nine attempts, and he was 5-19 overall with four turnovers. Maybe Warriors fans don’t think his one-game suspension for fouling GPII was so bad after all?
It certainly wasn’t a dominant performance from the Dubs, but it was a very gutty win. And it was also a very typical win for the 2021-22 Warriors, who seem to play their worst basketball whenever they’re supposed to win. Nothing makes the team play more casually on offense than an opposing star like Morant being out for the game, and with a team like Memphis that has good players all the way down their roster, they will absolutely punish less than 100% effort and focus. It was reminiscent of the overtime loss against the Indiana Pacers’ reserves earlier this year - the difference being that this time they had Draymond to shut down the late three-pointers.
The reason the Warriors had to come back from so far down was a relentless end to the third quarter from Memphis. The Warriors threw some punches first. Wiggins got an and-one on Kyle Anderson, who strongly disagreed with the call but didn’t pick up a single technical foul, great work. And Curry hit a big three to cut the lead to 62-60, despite still wearing the Sagers.
But Anderson found Bane for a layup, and got a layup of his own. And after a Looney putback got the Dubs within four, Bane hit a stumbling, buzzer-beating three to end the quarter 69-62, as Eagle roared, “Bane, breaking the body and the spirit!” Somewhere, Alfred Pennyworth turned off his television in disgust.
The series goes back to Memphis for Wednesday night, where there will likely be no Ja Morant or Steve Kerr once again, as Morant’s bone bruise seems likely to keep him out the entire series. Let’s just hope Steve finally starts wearing his mask correctly when he returns.
.@SteveKerr Please start wearing your mask over your nose. There are impressionable children out there with striking blue eyes and inexplicable first half rotations who see you as a role model. Also those kids say Steph Curry might thrive playing full quarters again.— Sean Keane (@seankeane) January 26, 2022