The Golden State Warriors are undefeated, but they will retain the hunter role Thursday night when they seek to avenge a late-season loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The eighth-seeded Warriors and ninth-seeded Grizzlies put on an entertaining spectacle in the grand finale of the inaugural NBA play-in tournament in May, with Memphis securing two late hoops from Ja Morant to win a victory 117-112 in overtime.
The victory saw Memphis face the West’s favorite team, the Utah Jazz, in the first round of the playoffs, with the Grizzlies losing 4-1.
Golden State, meanwhile, has started planning ahead for 2021-22, a season in which it is already enjoying a historic start. Not only are the Warriors 4-0, but every win has come despite a halftime deficit, a season-opening feat accomplished only once in NBA history, that of the Los Angeles Clippers in 1985-86.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr has no resentment over his team’s season ending nearly six months ago.
“Obviously, an overwhelming way out. Two back-to-back games that were basically punches, ”he said of his loss to the Los Angeles Lakers before meeting the Grizzlies. “(The final) felt like a final match. It was so much fun. That’s what it is: competition at the highest level.
It would have been more fun if Draymond Green had hit an 11 foot float at the end of the settlement. The failed shot set the stage for an extra five minutes and Morant’s two decisive baskets that capped a night of 35 points.
The Grizzlies’ victory came five days after they lost on the same floor 113-101 with the eighth seed in play in the play-in tournament. Stephen Curry bombed 46 points in that one.
Stalked by Dillon Brooks, Curry was “held” at 39 in the rematch while committing seven of Golden State’s 21 turnovers.
Curry won’t see Brooks in this rematch after the defensive ace broke his left hand in practice last month. The Grizzlies hope to get him back early next month.
Meanwhile, Memphis slipped near the bottom of the NBA defensive standings. The Grizzlies have collected 121, 114 and 121 points in their first three games. Then on Wednesday, host of the Portland Trail Blazers came back from a six-point halftime deficit with an explosion of 65 points in the second half to emerge with a 116-96 victory.
Leading up to a back-to-back set – the second on Memphis’ four-game swing in the West – Morant helped give the Grizzlies their early advantage. He finished with 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and he also committed nine turnovers.
The effort came following a missed free throw late in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday when the Grizzlies had a chance to equalize, a mistake for which he was quickly forgiven.
“He’s our leader. He’s our guy. We’re going to wage war on him, ”said Grizzlies swingman Desmond Bane. “We have his back through it all.”
In a clash between Morant and Curry, the Warriors’ biggest advantage might be their depth. Golden State reserves have led opposition 153-121 this season, while Memphis saves have been beaten 158-116.
-Media at field level
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