Ja Morant leaves the game after an apparent leg injury pic.twitter.com/qGnMxtgAgZ
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 8, 2022
It seemed to be a death knell for Memphis, as Morant is the face of the franchise.
The team fought until the bitter end of Game 4, blowing a sizable lead before losing 101-98, and trailing the series 3-1, there seemed to be little, if any, hope for the Grizzlies.
But on Wednesday, they made a blasting statement to the Warriors and the rest of the NBA with a 134-95 rout to keep the series alive.
Memphis may still lose the series, as Game 6 will be back in San Francisco, but it is proving that it is a team and not a one-man-band.
The Grizzlies Have Been Developing Their ‘Others’ All Season Long
Coming into the 2021-22 campaign, it looked like the Grizzlies would only go as far as Morant took them.
He had a sensational year, averaging 27.4 points and 6.7 assists per game, which earned him the Most Improved Player award.
But throughout the season, Memphis gradually proved that its fortunes weren’t solely tied to Morant’s exploits.
When he missed 12 games early in the season, the team won 10 of them, which caught the attention of people around the NBA.
Then, Morant had to sit out nine consecutive games towards the end of the regular season, only to see the Grizzlies go on a seven-game winning streak right away, which included a few wins over some elite teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.
No one other than Morant on the Grizzlies made the All-Star team, but by the start of the playoffs, everyone realized that young players such as Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. had to be respected as good NBA players.
Memphis ended up winning 56 games, which was the second-most in the league and a major improvement over their 38-34 record last year.
Memphis Is Getting It Done On Both Ends Of The Floor
Much of the attention the Grizzlies have gotten this season has been centered around their exciting, fast-paced offense, but they have also become a very good defensive team.
They finished fourth in defensive rating, and they have continued their defensive excellence in the postseason.
It allowed them to overcome multiple double-digit deficits in the first round versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, and now it is keeping them alive against the Warriors.
In Game 4, the length of Memphis’ wings and frontcourt players befuddled Golden State and made it work extra hard to get decent shots.
The Grizzlies did much of the same on Wednesday in Game 5, and their length also helped them out-rebound the Warriors 55-37.
But Memphis also was impressive offensively, as seven players got into double figures and three different players put up 21 points.
NBA games Wednesday. Confidence in the Memphis Grizzlies was restored Wednesday night with a statement-making performance. The Grizzlies rebounded, shot well, played defense and showed tons of energy. They dominated The Warriors. Final. 134/95.@CBSSports pic.twitter.com/Jcc5oA97zO
— Michael Penny (@flavorsphotos1) May 12, 2022
Part of the reason the Grizzlies won so easily must also be attributed to the Warriors, who likely had some sort of complacency seep into their collective subconscious.
If they get their minds right again, they should end the series in Game 6, but it won’t prevent the positive impressions Memphis has made from lasting.