Grizzlies rout Warriors to avoid elimination, force Game 6
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies fought off elimination with the highest-scoring performance in their franchise’s postseason history.
And with All-Star guard Ja Morant cheering from the bench. Then Morant upped the ante by chanting “Grizz in seven!”
Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones each scored 21 points and the Grizzlies routed the Golden State Warriors 134-95 on Wednesday night to force a sixth game in their Western Conference semifinal.
“We’ve exceeded expectations ever since I’ve been here,” Bane said. “It almost seems whenever someone thinks we can’t do something, we end up doing it. So I never want to put a limit on this team on what we can do because anything’s possible.”
Dillon Brooks added 12 points for Memphis. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke had 11 apiece and De’Anthony Melton 10. Steven Adams had 13 rebounds, six offensive as Memphis outscored Golden State 24-5 on second-chance points.
The Grizzlies never trailed, turning in their best performance of this series to pull within 3-2 even with Morant out a second straight game because of a bone bruise in his right knee. They improved to 4-11 when facing elimination.
“We knew what was at stake,” Jackson said. “We didn’t change anything, though. We just calmed down, looked at the film, understand what we had to take away from the last game and just went out there and executed.”
Memphis scored 77 points in the first half, the most in franchise postseason history. The Grizzlies pushed their lead to 55 in the third quarter, threatening the three biggest postseason blowouts in NBA history. Their 52-point lead after three tied for the largest in a playoff game in the past 70 years.
“Obviously, this was a very impressive win for our group, great bounce-back for sure,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
When Memphis fans chanted “Whoop That Trick! Whoop That Trick!” early in the fourth, Stephen Curry laughed on the court while Draymond Green swung a towel in unison with the crowd. Green said he doesn’t respect people who only bring energy when winning.
“When you spew it out, you’ve got to be willing to take it and not hide from it and not duck from it and not hide from it. Embrace it,” Green said. “So, I appreciated the crowd tonight and the energy they brought to the game. If they want to whoop that trick, we’re going to whoop it together.”
Game 6 is Friday night in San Francisco, where the Warriors have won five straight playoff games and their last seven overall.
Klay Thompson led Golden State with 19 points, Jonathan Kuminga added 17, Curry had 14 and Damion Lee and Moses Moody each had 10.
The Warriors lost for the first time with assistant Mike Brown filling in for coach Steve Kerr, who missed his second straight game since testing positive for COVID before Game 4. Thompson said they expected to close out this series only to play “like a shell of ourselves.”
“It was awful,” Thompson said. “It was embarrassing from the opening tip. We didn’t have great flow. They were more aggressive than us, reflecting their 30 free throws to our 13.”
The Grizzlies got back to doing the things that helped them post the second-best record during the regular season. They outrebounded Golden State for the first time in this series 55-37, dominating the offensive boards 18-4. They forced 22 turnovers and got their best production from the bench of this series.
Golden State, thanks to Jordan Poole coming off the bench, had outscored Memphis’ reserves each of the first four games. Facing elimination, the Grizzlies had a 28-8 edge through the first two quarters and finished with a 52-35 margin. Poole had three points.
Memphis led 38-28 at the end of the first quarter and continued a 24-8 run into the second quarter to go up 53-36. They finished the second on a 20-4 run, including 14 straight, to outscore Golden State 39-22 for a 77-50 lead at halftime.
Then the Grizzlies opened the third quarter outscoring Golden State 20-6. They kept pushing, outscoring Golden State 42-17 in the third for a 119-67 lead going into the fourth.
Brown benched most of his starters by 3:44 of the third, and Jenkins followed to start the fourth resting up for a flight to California and Game 6.
Warriors: The 39-point loss was the fifth-largest playoff loss in franchise history and largest since a 40-point loss to the Clippers on April 21, 2014, in Game 2 of the first round. They’re the sixth team in the past 10 years to lose by 39 or more in a game that didn’t end a series. Four of the previous five won the next game. … The 77 points allowed in the first half matched the most allowed all season. They also gave up 77 on Jan. 13 at Milwaukee. … The Warriors also fell to 12-4 in Game 5s since 2015. … Otto Porter Jr. played 12 minutes before being sidelined by a sore right foot.
Grizzlies: They matched their most first-half points, also scoring 77 against New Orleans on March 8. … They went 20-5 without Morant during the regular season and are 1-1 in this series.
“This is definitely impressive but to use our players’ phrase, ‘We deep,’” Jenkins said. “I mean we’re deep. It’s as simple as that. I think we say that not arrogantly, we say that confidently because anybody that steps out on the floor can make an impact for us.”
The Bucks also led Philadelphia by 52 (124-72) on March 30, 1970. Denver beat New Orleans by 58 on April 27, 2009, matching the margin Minneapolis beat St. Louis on March 19, 1956. Golden State beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 56 on April 21, 1973.
Memphis scored 25 points off turnovers in the first half — most by any team in the 1st half over the last 25 postseasons. The Warriors had been averaging 19 turnovers a game in this series and had 14 by halftime and finished with 20.
BROWN’S FIRST LOSS
Brown, the next coach of the Sacramento Kings, had been 12-0 coaching the Warriors in the postseason, winning 11 straight in the 2017 playoffs. He also won Game 4 when the Warriors took the lead for the first time with 45.7 seconds left to pull out a win for a 3-1 series lead.
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By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer