SAN FRANCISCO—In his third National Basketball Association (NBA) season, Ja Morant is speaking up during timeouts and showing his growth with every big basket.
He and his supporting cast are defending with energy and doing all of the important little things.
Morant made a driving layup with 57.9 seconds left and shined in Stephen Curry’s home building once again, scoring 30 points as the Memphis Grizzlies made it two straight thrilling overtime wins against the Golden State Warriors with a 104-101 victory Thursday night.
“He’s just taken huge steps all around, as a player, as a leader, he’s finding his voice,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “… His voice is just resonating throughout.”
Curry wound up with 36 points, but went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime—0 for 6. He missed two key three-pointers late in a rematch of the play-in game from five months ago that Memphis won 117-112 in OT on May 21 at Chase Center.
Curry couldn’t convert a 3 to end regulation, leaving the teams tied at 98, then another with 1:18 remaining in the extra period to finish 7 for 20 from deep in the Warriors’ first loss following a 4-0 start.
“The last two shots in regulation, the last one, the game-winner, looked good,” Curry said. “Those are two shots I’d take every day of the week. Overtime, I think I pressed a little bit, maybe settled a little bit, especially when I didn’t have it going from 3, and not getting into the paint and getting my runners off, getting the ball moving. Little critical of myself on those last three shots.”
Desmond Bane scored 19 for the Grizzlies, who ended a two-game skid and concluded their four-game West Coast trip with a back-to-back following a 116-96 defeat at Portland on Wednesday night. Morant shot 11 for 22.
“He figures out how to score late game,” Jaren Jackson Jr. said.
Damion Lee added 14 points off the bench for Golden State.
Jackson’s three-pointer got the Grizzlies within 86-84 at the 7:45 mark of the fourth, then Memphis capitalized on a turnover by Andre Iguodala and tied it the next time down on De’Anthony Melton’s short jumper.
That started a furious, back-and-forth finish reminiscent of the thriller from five months earlier.
“We talked a lot better. We just responded really well,” Jackson said of making things happen on the defensive end. “Overtime win is huge.”
Draymond Green gave everyone a scare when he went down grabbing his knee with 2:50 left before halftime but he was fine and wound up with a key block—one of his five on the night—and rebound in the final 18.3 seconds. He had 12 boards and seven assists.
“I thought we had an easy start to the second quarter and then we got a little crazy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry, playing 12 years to the day after making his NBA debut, shot 11 for 29 and also contributed eight assists and seven rebounds as the Warriors began an eight-game homestand. They had their best start since beginning 24-0 in 2015-16.
Golden State committed 22 turnovers.
“It’s tough, when you lose you start nitpicking pretty quickly,” Curry said.
Former Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, now in the front office as a consultant, meanwhile, hosted family members of a fallen volunteer crossing guard who worked at Stanley Middle School where Pachulia’s two sons attend in the East Bay suburb of Lafayette.
Ashley Dias was killed in September when he was hit by a car while helping three children out of harm’s way before the accident at the school he once attended. Pachulia’s youngest son witnessed the ordeal.
Curry also said hello to Dias’s parents and siblings after having previously reached out to the family.
“It’s such a tragic loss,” Pachulia said of the avid sports fan Dias. “The last two years we’ve been losing so many people because of this pandemic, then you hear this guy, Ashley Dias, was a crossing guard and literally volunteering and helping thousands of kids. … I couldn’t thank him for taking care of our kids so how about we invite them to the game. Seeing their spirits lifted up feels so good.”
Also before the game, the Warriors hosted an LGBTQ+ panel at their ninth-floor sky bar with spectacular city views that was open to all fans with a ticket as Golden State hosted its LGBTQ+ night.ng
Image courtesy of Jeff Chiu