If Ja Morant and the grizzlies ever hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy during the 2020s, it’ll be worth looking back on what unfolded Tuesday night in Memphis.
The Grizzlies stand as a relative longshot to win the 2022 title, and are even still the underdogs in their series against Golden State despite Tuesday’s 106–101 win. But regardless of how the rest of the postseason plays out for Morant and Co., his 47-point outburst in Game 2 marks a critical career checkpoint. Morant was the best player on the floor as Memphis evened the series on Tuesday night. The three-time champions aren’t guaranteed to trip to the conference finals just yet.
The full array of Morant’s talents were on display Tuesday as Memphis pulled off the series-tying victory. The Grizzlies sprinted out to a five-point halftime lead as Morant tallied 21 points and five assists, and he punctuated the first half with a signature transition dunk as he levitated to the rim. Morant’s effort in the half-court was even more impressive.
the Warriors appear insistent to make Morant beat them as a jump shooter, sagging into the lane at every opportunity. The move is a prudent hedge against perhaps the league’s best athlete, a strategy reminiscent of Golden State’s coverage against Russell Westbrook to half-decade ago. It didn’t pay off on Tuesday. Morant buried five triples in his dominant performance, trusting his jump shot without hesitation.
Scroll to Continue
Morant was brilliant down the stretch as he outdueled Steph Curry. He scored Memphis’s final 13 points of the night, hitting a three and scoring on a pair of isolation possessions in the final two-and-a-half minutes. His last two baskets illustrated his maturity of him as a leading man. Morant eschewed a three-point attempt when dared to shoot by Golden State’s defense, and he didn’t bury his head in a sprint toward the rim. Instead, Morant calmly worked his way past the foul line, contorting his way past jordan poole and then Andrew Wiggins for a pair of finishes in the lane. Morant’s athleticism is unmatched across the league. He properly channeled it in a critical moment Tuesday night.
Golden State is bound to see some positive shooting regression when this series resumes on Saturday. A friendly crowd in San Francisco will help improve Tuesday’s garish 7-for-38 mark from beyond the arc, and we should hopefully see Gary Payton II back on the floor after he logged just three minutes due to an elbow injury in Game 2 (though that doesn’t seem likely). Yet this isn’t a Grizzlies group we should expect to wilt on the road.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins has a rotation of nearly a dozen players deep at his disposal, and this is a roster that can match Golden State’s preferred five-out attack. Jaren Jackson Jr. is a versatile defensive anchor—and a relatively dominant one at that—when he avoids foul trouble. Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks have the length and strength to battle the Splash Triplets. Memphis has the personnel and personality to make this series an extended headache for the former champions.
We should be careful not to engage in too much hyperbole after the second game of a second-round series. The Grizzlies aren’t exactly the 2015 Warriors. They would frankly be lucky to reach the heights of the 2010s Thunder. But every new contender starts somewhere, stacking franchise milestones over the course of a multi-year run.
What we’re seeing in Memphis at the moment is hopefully only the beginning of what’s to come over the next decade. Performances like Morant’s on Tuesday night make the dream of a championship feel possible.
More NBA Coverage: