Report Card: Grizzlies lose heartbreaker in San Francisco

Jan 26, 2023 - 2:51 PM
<a href=Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors" src="" />
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies have had a disastrous start to their Western Conference road trip. On Friday, Memphis blew a lead to the Lakers. Two nights later, the Grizzlies went down 29 points to the Suns without Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. A night later, Memphis got smoked by the Kings. Worst of all, the Grizzlies will be without Steven Adams for 3-5 weeks after he sprained his PCL in the loss to Phoenix. As the Grizzlies looked to end their three-game skid, they traveled to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors.

The action was tight in the first half. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole picked up two fouls each in the first quarter but that did not seem to matter as the Warriors were up 24-22 at the end of the period. The Grizzlies got great first-half minutes from Xavier Tillman whose hands were everywhere, forcing turnovers and creating fast breaks. The Warriors had 14 first-half turnovers turned into 23 Memphis points. On the flip side, Golden State forced five turnovers, resulting in five points. The Grizzlies owned the fast break and the paint, as they typically do.

The score remained tight in the second quarter, with the biggest lead of the half only being six. The Grizzlies were outrebounded without Adams and they shot poorly in the first half. The Warriors shot 43% from beyond the arc in the first half but scoring contributions from Santi Aldama and Ja Morant helped the Grizzlies take a 54-53 lead at the half.

Golden State opened the second half on a 7-0 run after forcing two Grizzlies turnovers. Memphis fought back though after Bane, Morant and Dillon Brooks hit a three each. The Grizzlies’ lead reached ten points with six minutes left in the third quarter. Golden State climbed back in the game eventually tying it at 85 after a four-point play from Curry. Memphis did not roll over though. Bane and Morant were relentless offensively and the Grizzlies entered the fourth quarter with a 96-90 lead.

The fourth quarter was much of the same. Jaren Jackson Jr. went to work on both ends but was sidelined midway through the period after picking up his fifth foul. Draymond Green had a series of elite defensive possessions to keep the game close. Memphis’s lead was cut in half after threes from Thompson and Curry left the score 111-107 with four minutes to go.

Memphis’s halfcourt offense stalled and the Warriors took advantage, tying the game at 113. Jackson picked up his sixth foul when he made contact with Draymond Green going for a loose ball. Brooks fouled Curry on a three, giving the Warriors three free points. Curry was questionably ejected with 1:14 remaining after throwing his mouthpiece. Morant made clutch plays down the stretch but Poole broke open for a layup off an inbound play to win 122-120.

There was a lot to like from last night’s game despite the heartbreaking finish. Let us take a look at the good… and the bad.

Ja Morant - A: 29 points, 10-20 FG (7-12 FT), 12 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 5 turnovers

It was a slow start for Morant, but once he got going, he was excellent. He started 1-5 but began to heat up in the second quarter with one difficult layup after another. His shot to give Memphis the halftime lead was ridiculous.

Morant’s connection with Brandon Clarke was phenomenal throughout the night. He set up his teammates on every possession and helped Memphis build their third-quarter lead. He was quiet for much of the fourth quarter but when called upon late, he delivered. Morant made a clutch layup after a pump fake got Green in the air. While he struggled from the line for much of the night, Morant went 2-2 on a late trip to the stripe. Morant made a beautiful play to set up Clarke for the game-tying basket with six seconds left. As is the case with many nights, Morant’s defense could have been better, but his hands were active and he forced two turnovers leading to Memphis points.

Morant has been at the forefront of this budding rivalry and despite the losses, he has been phenomenal against Golden State this season.

Brandon Clarke - A: 19 points, 8-10 FG, 8 rebounds, 2 assists

Clarke got the nod tonight in Adams’s absence, and he did not disappoint. The big man did everything that was asked of him. He made several clutch buckets, and while he did miss a free throw late in the game, it is certainly not the only reason Memphis lost on Wednesday.

Clarke will get a lot of minutes with Adams out of the lineup. As the new starting center, Clarke will have to fill the rebounding void Adams left. On Wednesday, he did just that, reeling in eight boards. Down the stretch, once Jackson had fouled out, the Grizzlies struggled to get a defensive rebound, which allowed Golden State to pull ahead. Clarke’s rebounding will need to be dominant and consistent as he fills in for Adams for the foreseeable future.

Half-court offense – D

Memphis’s struggles in the half-court offense have been the dark cloud over this team going back to last year. The Grizzlies are great in transition. They are great at getting second-chance points. Yet, the half-court offense is still lackluster at times. Too many times at the end of games, as the Grizzlies are trying to burn the clock, Memphis’s offense stalls and lets the opponent back into the game. This particular possession in Wednesday’s game is inexcusable.

Memphis definitely misses Adams. His screens, passing and offensive rebounding can often save possessions but without him, Memphis was unable to get any good looks. If the Grizzlies wish to contend for a title this year, the troubles in the half-court have to be resolved come April.

Inbounding defense - F

Come on, man.

In a night full of mistakes from Ziaire Williams, this was the worst. Covering the inbounder and blocking inside passes are two of the most important rules when guarding an inbound pass and the Grizzlies failed to do either. There are plenty of moments to point to that fans can say cost the Grizzlies the game but this play – an absolute mental defensive lapse – is the reason Memphis came up short on Wednesday.

Overall grade: B-

This is a really tough game to grade. On one hand, Morant played well and the Grizzlies nearly beat the Warriors in San Francisco. On the other hand, Memphis made so many unforced errors and had several mental lapses in pivotal moments that cost them the win. Overreactions are a given after a Grizzlies loss but it is safe to say, the Grizzlies have a trade to make if they want to get over the hump and make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Memphis is now 0-4 on the road trip and travels to Minnesota on Friday.

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