The first two games of the Grizzlies Warriors semifinals series offered something for every NBA fan, no matter which side you’re on. If you can’t get excited about this series, then you’re not a hardcore tire fan.
There is something for every basketball fan in this series. With Ja Morant and Steph Curry you have star power. We’ve already seen plenty of physicality, trash talk, fast-paced scoring and outstanding clutch performances. A long, intense streak is developing in which both teams will feel the effects of advancing.
Speaking of star power, Morant went out Tuesday night carrying the young Grizzlies on his back with a performance of 47 points, 8 rebs, 8 branches and 3 steals. Morant scored 15 straight points in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter to seal the win for Memphis. I’m not ready to give this to Morant Superstar Stamp Now. Though he’s on the verge of becoming just that.
But Morant is key in this series. If he shows up consistently in every game, the Grizzlies have a good chance of beating the Warriors and making it to the Western Conference Finals. I’m not saying Morant needs to score 40+ points in every game, but he can’t have some of the same games on the road as he did in the Minnesota Series. In the three away games against the Timberwolves Morant scored 44 points. It won’t do that against Golden State.
Due to Morant’s rapid rise in the league, this duel looks more like a long-term rivalry with every game played by these teams. Back to last season’s play-in tournament, Morant and co. sent Steph and the Warriors packing and eliminated them from the postseason. During the regular season, Memphis defeated Golden State in three of their four games. As good as Morant’s team is, he is the catalyst and they will only go as far as he takes them in the playoffs.
This series also has something for the fan who loves a more physical product. For the old-school fan who fondly remembers ’90s NBA ball style, we haven’t forgotten you. Memphis and Golden State have played two games, and there have already been two sackings. The second game got bumpy in less than three minutes when Dillon Brooks took a hit to the head of Gary Payton II on a layup attempt, causing Payton to fall onto his left arm and fracture his elbow. Not a great game, but the refs got it right and kicked Brooks out. Being physical is one thing, but that was taking it a little too far.
Seconds later, Draymond elbowed Green in the face, missing the rest of the first quarter. He then turned off the crowd for characteristically booing him Draymond fashion as he went to the dressing room to have his eye stitched. I’m pretty sure he’ll hear that from the Commissioner in the form of a fine. But hey, Green makes $25 million a year, so he’ll be fine. His words, not mine.
While I don’t see the Grizzlies having enough firepower to win this series, I think they can go at least six games. I think these teams will probably get in each other’s way in the Western Conference for the next few years. Much like OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs a little over a decade ago. Memphis will eventually defeat the Golden State, but it won’t be this year.
As for the rest of this series, I have a feeling the refs will be on high alert due to the tough play during the first two games. Any foul that has even a hint of exaggeration is likely to be called flagrant from here on out. One thing to watch out for is Green as he already has two glamor points in this playoff. If Draymond commits another blatant 2 foul (or two blatant ones), he will be automatically banned for one game. Everyone remembers how that worked out against Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals when Green was suspended for a game in that series.