NBA playoffs: Warriors get emotional win; Celtics even series with Bucks
SAN FRANCISCO — The fans at Chase Center patiently waited all night for a moment to erupt in utter chaos, hoping their Golden State Warriors would find a way to climb back and take a lead.
They had to wait a while, but fortunately for them, that moment came.
Stephen Curry made a pair of free throws with 45.7 seconds remaining to give the Warriors a 94-93 edge, and the sold-out crowd cheered emphatically and collectively let out a sigh of relief. He knocked down six more freebies, and Golden State somehow escaped with a 101-98 win Monday night over the Memphis Grizzlies and now holds a 3-1 series lead.
Curry finished with a game-high 32 points (18 in the fourth quarter) but shot just 10-of-25 from the floor and 4-of-14 from 3-point range. He wasn’t the only Warriors player who had an off night. And while a win is a win, Golden State will have to be better in Game 5 after what was a forgettable performance for a championship-driven team.
"I'm very proud of the way everyone competed,” said Klay Thompson, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3s. “During this time of the year, some days are going to be ugly as far as offensively, but we really got gritty on the defensive end and willed it out.”
The Grizzlies were missing star point guard Ja Morant, who was ruled out after suffering a knee injury in Game 3, but they were prepared to operate without their best player, having gone 20-5 in the regular season without Morant in the lineup. And for most of the game, they held the lead over the Warriors, including a 12-point advantage early in the fourth. But where there’s a will, there are the Warriors.
Golden State poured in 39 points in the final frame, sparked by a pair of Otto Porter Jr. 3-pointers, overcoming an egregious three quarters of basketball to win a game that never should have been as close as it was. Not having Steve Kerr didn’t help either. The Warriors head coach tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled out a couple of hours before tipoff, leaving newly appointed Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown to fill the void. Also, early Monday morning, it was reported that Adreian Payne, a Michigan State teammate of Draymond Green, was shot and killed in Orlando, Fla.
Even with all the unfortunate developments and curveballs — combined with an 0-of-15 start from distance, 11 first-half turnovers and just 38 points at the break — the Dubs found a way.
“It's been a wild day all the way around … you just had to kind of figure it out on the fly,” Curry said. “We really didn't have a lot of time to react. Just come with the same approach and understand that we know what the game plan is and then come out and try to execute. Obviously, we didn't for three quarters. Defensively, we were solid. Just offensively couldn't get anything going and gutted it out.”
Great teams always find a way to get it done, and Golden State proved that it is indeed a great team by overcoming adversity on and off the court. Game 5 Wednesday in Memphis will be the Warriors’ hardest game of the year, however, whether Morant returns or not, and they can’t afford to have another lackluster showing like they did Monday. The Grizzlies’ inexperience cost them a chance to even the series, but they competed admirably without the 2022 Most Improved Player. Taylor Jenkins’ resilient group returns to FedEx Forum, where Memphis fans will be fired up with their team facing elimination.
Dillon Brooks, who heard roars of boos every time he touched the ball, struggled to make shots in his first game back from a one-game suspension. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting (2-of-9 on 3s) and eight assists. Kyle Anderson was fantastic off the bench, chipping in 17 points, eight boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Tyus Jones, who started in place of Morant, recorded 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Grizzlies, who were spectacular on defense for three quarters, will need to shoot the ball better on Wednesday after going 9-of-35 from beyond the arc. Of course, they need Morant back, but Monday’s performance showed that they can hang in big games.
Experience pays dividends this time of year, and the Warriors have the edge in that category. It’s a reason they're the only team left in the playoffs not tied in their respective series.
“Any time you have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole on the floor, and a guy that if he wasn't hurt he would have been Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green on the floor, you know good things can happen,” Brown said. “If it's a one- or two-possession game down the stretch, whether you're down or up, you feel pretty confident.
“And yes, a lot of it has to do with the playoff experience that these guys have, but their talent and IQ, in my opinion, is second-to-none.”