Marking the physicality box with a plus sign is a priority for the Grizzlies as they seek to punch Golden State back after the Warriors outmuscled Memphis to win game one of the playoffs semi-final matchup by a single point (117-116).
Key measures of physicality are 50-50 balls and second-chance points, a basic fact not lost on head coach Taylor Jenkins nor any of the players whether they are starting or designated to contribute from the bench.
Game two at FedExForum is set to tip off Tuesday night at 8:30.
“I think it’s just being more ready for it next game,” said Memphis starting forward Brandon Clarke about the need to be more physical. “You know, we just went through a battle last series (against Minnesota). I think that we learned a lot from that series.
“So, I think we’ve just got to watch the film together and learn from it, and we’re going to see what we did wrong and what we did right, and we’re going to come out ready to play.”
Clarke, whose energy has stamped him as a playoff force for the Grizzlies, was involved in the most enduring physical confrontation from game one.
With 1:18 left in the first half, Golden State’s Draymond Green fouled Clarke (12 points and nine rebounds off the bench) on a layup attempt. Clarke missed the layup but the contact by Green was ruled a flagrant 2, an automatic ejection with Memphis trailing 54-53.
Before Green was tossed, the high-energy Memphis crowd chanted “Throw him out!” When Memphis fans got their wish, Green, whose brand is marked by demonstrative antics, sprinted off the court, waving his hands up and down to the crowd.
“I can take a hit, man,” said Clarke. (He’s been known for flagrant fouls in his career … so I wasn’t really shocked … he did hit me pretty hard, twice really when I saw it again. … I’m not really worried about it or anything….
“He’s known to be a pretty big part of their team. A pretty big part of their offense and their defense, but they seemed to still come out and play well without him. He’s a real good player.”
Draymond Green goes off after flagrant 2 call
(Photos: Karanja A. Ajanaku/The New Tri-State Defender)
Memphis had a last shot at victory with 3.6 seconds left in the game, but Ja Morant’s patented left hand, driving layup was overcooked, triggering an on-court celebration by the Warriors. Morant led the Grizzlies from the point guard spot with 34 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
“Gave up too many second-chance points; gave up 26,” said Morant. “Gave up 18 fastbreak points. Definitely not something we want to give up and play a factor in this game.”
As for the missed layup that has been replayed a gazillion times, Morant said, “Same message every time we are in that situation (Ja, go get a bucket). I just missed the layup.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. came up huge on the order that his coaches, teammates, professional observers and particularly Memphis fans had been wanting to see from the Grizzlies’ starting forward. He had 33 points and 10 rebounds. After the loss, he talked about keeping the game in perspective.
“Yeah, even if we were to win, it would have kind of been the same mentality. We would have just been (thinking) a long series; no ups and downs. Get another shot at it. It was a one-point game. Hard fought game but we’re on to the next game.”
Golden State recorded 31 assists and outrebounded Memphis 50-47, including a 15-9 margin in the fourth quarter.
Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton made his biggest impact so far on Memphis’ playoff run so far with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Afterward, he linked three-point shots and 50-50 balls.
“With the Warriors, we’ve got to understand that it’s going to be a lot of threes, and it’s going to be a lot of deep threes. So, the ball’s going to be coming off the rim hard,” said Melton. “So, playing these guys, we understand that we’ve got to run more to the elbows to get the rebounds and box out.…
“Hit them first, because they do have guys that love to rebound and are trying to make those 50/50 plays every time down. We’ve just got to continue to match their rebounds, match their energy, and understand that it’s going to be a dogfight no matter what.”
The game 2 telecast will be on TNT.