This is why teams fought to avoid the play-in games.
Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are done for the season, beaten by a young Grizzlies team taking big steps forward in clutch minutes — Ja Morant scored 35 on the night, and rookie Xavier Tillman hit a corner three in overtime that may have saved Memphis’ season.
Memphis beat Golden State 117-112 in overtime, advancing the Grizzlies to the playoffs, where on Sunday they will face the No. 1 seed Jazz.
The Warriors season is done. They go home dreaming of what a healthy roster with Klay Thompson will look like next season.
Curry finished with 39 points and was 6-of-15 from three, but once again he and the Warriors had turnover problems — 21 on the night, or 20.2% of their possessions, one in every five trips down the court.
That, combined with non-Curry Warriors shooting 6-of-19 from 3, opened the door for the Grizzlies.
Morant walked right through it with a series of clutch shots, often floaters in the lane off drives.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 22, 2021
“That’s the shots I want to take when the pressure is on me…” Morant said of his key floaters during his walk-off interview. “I have all the confidence in the world in my game. Late, coach tried to set a screen, I just told him to move, I want that pressure.”
The other big shot came from rookie Xavier Tillman. He has played solidly all season for Memphis — he should get some All-Rookie Second Team votes — but is more of a defensive stopper. However, his corner three in overtime when the Grizzlies were down two and the Warriors had the momentum may have changed the game.
Memphis had the momentum from the start. Grizzlies jumped out to a double-digit lead early, starting 7-of-7 shooting while the Warriors turned the ball over possession after possession. The Warriors also were playing off Morant from deep — which is the league-wide strategy, he’s a 30.3% shooter from 3 this season and was 1-of-6 from beyond the arc Sunday against these same Warriors — but he started 5-of-8 from 3 and changed the game that way.
The Grizzlies had a strong game plan from the opening tip, based on adjustments from what had happened Sunday (a Warriors win that gave them the eighth seed). Golden State relied more on just their identity and stars.
That was almost enough for a dramatic Warriors comeback. The Grizzlies were up 10 with a little more than three minutes to go, but the Warriors went on a 9-0 run, five of those at the free throw line (including a foul on a 3 Jordan Poole got with a leg kick-out) and it was a game. Draymond Green had a shot at a floater to win the game in regulation but missed it.
That’s when the young Grizzlies earned their stripes.
Now they are off to Salt Lake City for the playoffs.