Several months ago, the Golden State Warriors met the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals.
At times, the matchup got competitive, especially in Game 1, when the Warriors eked out a 117-116 win with some clutch defense on Ja Morant in the closing seconds.
Steph Curry block vs Ja Morant
The Warriors take Game 1 vs Grizzlies 🍿
— Frenzy NBA (@frenzynba) May 1, 2022
The series was also marked by some very physical and even dirty play by both teams, and it ended with the Warriors moving on in six games.
Afterward, they went on to capture their fourth NBA championship in the past eight years.
The main thing that marred that series, at least in the minds of the Grizzlies and their fans, was the fact that Morant injured his knee in Game 3 and was out for the duration.
Some felt at the time that they would’ve won the series had it not been for his injury.
What. A. Finish. 🍿
Ja Morant misses a layup at the buzzer and the Warriors escape with a Game 1 win over the Grizzlies!pic.twitter.com/X2bcntVlai
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 1, 2022
Recently, Morant threw some shade at Stephen Curry and company by making a bold statement about that series.
“I felt like, me personally and my teammates, we were the favorites in that series,” Morant shared, per Sports Illustrated.
There is plenty to love about Morant’s confidence and swag, but this statement is ludicrous.
Memphis Had A Nice Season, But The Better Team Won
Heading into last season, the Grizzlies were a team on the rise, but by all reasonable accounts, they overachieved by winning 56 games and gaining the second seed in the Western Conference.
They finished fifth in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating and they led the NBA in fast-break points.
The Warriors were white-hot to start the regular season, but after the midway point of the schedule, they struggled and looked a bit shaky, especially on the offensive end.
Still, they got their groove back in the first round of the playoffs versus the Denver Nuggets, advancing in five relatively easy contests.
Once the Golden State-Memphis matchup started afterward, Golden State was considered not just the favorites, but heavy favorites.
While the Warriors had three All-Stars in Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, as well as a resurgent Klay Thompson, a five-time All-Star, the Grizzlies were heavily dependent on Morant to generate offense.
In the series, Golden State had four men average at least 15 points a game, while Memphis had only two.
It is difficult to win a playoff series with the type of offensive imbalance the Grizzlies have had.
In addition, the Warriors out-rebounded the Grizzlies by 5.2 per game, and as the legendary former coach Pat Riley used to say, “no rebounds, no rings.”
Is Warriors-Grizzlies A Legitimate Rivalry?
In sports these days, many fans and members of the media are quick to declare any playoff matchup that has any signs of ultra-competitiveness or antipathy a rivalry.
The term “rivalry’ shouldn’t be thrown around loosely, as it should only denote matchups that truly have those qualities.
In the past, fans had rivalries such as Lakers-Celtics, Celtics-76ers, Lakers-Kings and Bulls-Knicks to enjoy.
But all those rivalries have gone dormant for many years.
Warriors-Grizzlies had plenty of hard feelings and hard fouls last May, but one series with those attributes doesn’t make a true rivalry.
However, if these two teams meet again in next year’s playoffs, it could become a legitimate one, especially if Morant continues to stir the pot.