The Grizzlies hold the distinction of being in the NBA’s only two play-in tournaments, and after a narrow loss to Portland in the Bubble last season, Ja Morant and co. delivered big time in a do-or-die game against Golden State on Friday night, winning 117-112 in overtime.
On the road in San Francisco, Morant scored 35 points to go with six assists and four steals, as well as the Grizzlies’ last two buckets in the final minute of overtime to clinch the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and a meeting with the Utah Jazz in the first round.
The game was crazy from the jump, with Memphis storming out to an early lead before starting center Jonas Valanciunas — who was great in both rounds of the play-in — picked up his second foul and left the court. That gave the Warriors space for their own run and they finished the first period down just one.
Another key for Memphis was Dillon Brooks and the defense he was able to play against Stephen Curry. Despite not carrying the reputation of the Lakers’ perimeter defenders, Brooks made Curry work really hard off the ball, and without Andrew Wiggins or Juan Toscano-Anderson stepping up in quite the same way that they did against L.A., the Warriors didn’t quite have the juice.
A hot shooting night from Morant overall, a couple huge threes from Grayson Allen, and a great night from unsung rookie Xavier Tillman Sr. helped the Grizzlies put together an upset victory.
Still, the Warriors came back to force overtime despite 21 turnovers because Curry hit some circus shots late, while Jordan Poole got to the line on a three-point attempt then made a massive three, and then somehow found Wiggins on a lob to tie it at 111.
But once Memphis downsized and put Tillman and Allen in the game in overtime, Morant was able to go to work with a spaced floor and put in the two buckets that would clinch a huge win for the Grizzlies, sending the team to the postseason for the first time since the last Grit n’ Grind team made it back in 2017.