It was billed as the hottest young point guard in the league going up against one of the best ever, and once more the youngster won at the home of the two-time MVP.
In his third NBA season, Ja Morant is speaking up during timeouts and showing his growth with every big basket and it was he who made the telling contributions down the stretch to ensure he got the ‘W’ in Stephen Curry’s home building once again.
In a rematch of the play-in game from five months ago that Memphis won 117-112 in OT on May 21 at Chase Center – and in a game which felt very similar in the way it ebbed and flowed in terms of momentum – Morant made a pivotal driving layup with 57.9 seconds left, scoring 30 points in total, as the Memphis Grizzlies made it two straight thrilling overtime wins against the Golden State Warriors with a 104-101 victory Thursday night.
“He’s just taken huge steps all around, as a player, as a leader, he’s finding his voice,” coach Taylor Jenkins said. “His voice is just resonating throughout.”
Curry wound up with 36 points, and pulled out his full repertoire of threes – including a scarcely believable 25-footer off of one foot (see above) – but went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime: 0-for-6. He missed two key three-pointers late.
Firstly, Curry couldn’t convert a three to end regulation, leaving the teams tied at 98, then missed another with 1:18 remaining in the extra period to finish 7-for-20 from deep in the Warriors’ first loss following a 4-0 start.
It took a bit of the shine off the first three quarters where Curry looked every inch like one of the MVP frontrunners, which he is bound to be unless injury or some other non-basketball-related cause derails his charge.
But his profligacy in the latter stages, coupled with the Warriors coughing up a ridiculous 23 turnovers, many of which were unforced, meant that it was the younger of the flamboyant point guards who won out in their personal duel once again.
That is not to say Morant wasn’t helped by his supporting cast. Jaren Jackson Jr made some pivotal plays and Desmond Bane scored 19 for the Grizzlies, who ended a two-game skid and concluded their four-game West Coast trip with a back-to-back following a 116-96 defeat at Portland on Wednesday night. Morant himself shot 11-for-22.
“He figures out how to score late game,” Jackson Jr said.
Jackson’s three-pointer got the Grizzlies within 86-84 at the 7:45 mark of the fourth, then Memphis capitalised on a turnover by Andre Iguodala and tied it the next time down on De’Anthony Melton’s short jumper.
That started a furious, back-and-forth finish reminiscent of the thriller from five months earlier.
“We talked a lot better. We just responded really well,” Jackson said of making things happen on the defensive end. “Overtime win is huge.”
Draymond Green gave everyone a scare when he went down grabbing his knee with 2:50 left before half-time but he was fine and wound up with a key block – one of his five on the night – and rebound in the final 18.3 seconds. He had 12 boards and seven assists. Damion Lee added 14 points off the bench for Golden State.
“I thought we had an easy start to the second quarter and then we got a little crazy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry, playing 12 years to the day after making his NBA debut, shot 11-for-29 and also contributed eight assists and seven rebounds as the Warriors began an eight-game homestand. They had their best start since beginning 24-0 in 2015-16.
But it’s Morant and the Grizzlies who are celebrating after this one – and you can watch them back in action on Sky Sports this coming Saturday night, when they host the Miami Heat from 1am.