The Memphis Grizzlies did not lose Game 1 against the Golden
State Warriors because Ja Morant missed a layup.
Game 1 was a result of a young coach leading an even younger
team against a proven franchise led by a seasoned, dynastic trio in
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
The key to Memphis winning this series?
Growing up. Fast.
In the first round, the Grizzlies were the team taking advantage
of the wildly inexperienced Minnesota Timberwolves, overcoming
three different double-digit, fourth-quarter deficits to win the
series in six games.
With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter of their
second-round series opener on Sunday, the Grizzlies found
themselves down double digits again, but the confidence was there.
They've already proved they are resilient and capable of storming
back, which they did.
The difference this time? An opponent with over 500 games of
playoff experience on its roster. While Memphis was able to defeat
Minnesota via three comebacks, Golden State did something it has
always done: Respond.
This is a trend to watch throughout the series. If Memphis gets
down and storms back, can it do the little things to win those
games? Or will the experience of the Warriors win out?
When looking for this trend, there has to be some identifiers
that point towards the youth of Memphis, and in Game 1, there were
a few examples.
One indicator of youth can be found in shot selection.
All season long, Memphis thrived by attacking the paint and
second-chance points. During their comeback in the fourth quarter,
the Grizzlies had seven straight possessions that resulted in a
three-point attempt. In that four-minute span, they shot 2 of 7
from deep, only scoring from the free-throw line and one layup off
on an offensive rebound. Although they outscored Golden State in
that stretch, settling for perimeter jumpers was a failure to
capitalize on their turned up defense.
Another indicator is careful attention to detail.
Thompson left the door wide open, missing two free throws with
6.7 seconds remaining in regulation. It would have been a
one-possession game no matter the result, but it was winnable for
Memphis. All the Grizzlies had to do was rebound the second
The difference between Memphis getting that rebound and calling
a timeout from the resulting jump ball was roughly three crucial
Multiple lapses happen here for the Grizzlies. Thompson missed
the original three-point shot for a lead, only for Andrew Wiggins
to gather the offensive rebound. Memphis gets caught ball watching
and is slow on its rotations, leading to a wide-open Curry
Steph misses another opportunity to put the Warriors up, only
for Wiggins to get another offensive rebound in an attempt to tie
the game on a tip. He misses the tip, yet the Grizzlies still can
not come down with the rebound. The tie-up leads to a jump ball,
which ultimately gives the Warriors possession. The very next play,
Thompson hits the game-winning three off an inbound play.
In the final minutes, Memphis was beat by its own medicine,
allowing three offensive rebounds that led to two massive Golden
State second-chance buckets.
Communication in crunch time is another thing that can fail a
Upon first glance, it looks as if Ja Morant was ball watching
and lost track of his man. From the beginning, Ja was actually
matched up with Jordan Poole, and it was Brandon Clarke who was
ball watching. It appears Clarke never had sight of his assignment
(Gary Payton II), and assumed due to his position in help that
Poole was the next man in rotation. By time Clarke realized the
mix-up, it was too late, and the game was tied.
The mistakes of youth are not just attributed to the players on
Grizzlie head coach Taylor Jenkins will have to grow alongside
his team if there is any hope for Memphis to reach just the second
Western Conference Finals in franchise history.
There is no question about his ability to keep his guys locked
in despite deficits, and his ATOs are top notch, but his
learning curve has to deal with managing rotations. Playoff
rotations shrink for a reason. Although Memphis boasted a deep
squad in the regular season, guys like Steven Adams and De'Anthony
Melton were essentially cut from the rotation altogether in Round
Though the Grizzlies avoided the foul trouble they ran into
against the Timberwolves, Jenkins deployed 10 men in Game 1.
Perhaps it was due to the one day's rest between these series, but
Memphis saw success in the prior round when shortening the
For example, Jaren Jackson Jr. was in a groove that Memphis
desperately needed to see from him.
More importantly, Jackson only had 3 fouls and was never
considered to be in foul trouble at any point in the game. Yet, he
only played 30 minutes in a game where he was virtually
unstoppable. With no Draymond Green on the floor, JJJ was a
mismatch for the Warriors, and should have seen the floor more.
Even more perplexing was Jenkins' decision to sub out Melton
rather than Dillon Brooks for the final three minutes of play.
Brooks had 5 fouls and was 2 of 12 shooting prior to the
substitution, while Melton was causing problems all over the floor;
he produced 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and a block.
Melton is the same level of a perimeter defender with a quicker
first step, making him better suited to guard guys like Poole and
Curry. His activity on the night, plus his scoring, should have
warranted his stay on the floor. The decision comes down to Desmond
Bane and Brooks. And on nights where both may be struggling in
terms of scoring, you would prefer Bane's presence, as it only
takes one shot to change the game (i.e., Thompson's game
Memphis is going to have to grow up fast in order to knock off
the veteran Warriors team standing in its way. From shot selection
to late-game attention to detail, Morant and Co. will have to lock
in at an even deeper level of execution, while Coach Jenkins and
his staff will have learn what rotations are going to put the
Grizzlies in the best position to win.
This series features two of the top teams in the NBA at
different moments of their championship windows.
If the Grizzlies want to help close the Warriors window early,
they'll have to overcome their youthful mistakes and grow up in
front of a national audience.