On multiple levels, Memphis’ 39-point beatdown of Golden State was deeply satisfying, yet the bottom line is that the semi-final playoff victory only earned the Grizzlies another chance to avoid elimination.
“Game 6 on the road … it’s going to be a tough one,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins, referencing Thursday’s Game 6 battle at the Chase Center in San Francisco.
“Game 6 is an elimination game…. There’s no other way to describe it. We’ve got to go out there, accept the challenge, do everything possible individually and as a team to play our best basketball yet again.”
Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Grizzlies – after having not done so in the playoffs – played at their highest level on Wednesday night. The performance pumped up a FedExForum fanbase that came ready to demonstrate why “Whoop That Trick” is the team’s unofficial theme song.
The victory margin was the largest in Grizzlies’ franchise playoff history. It followed the worst loss (30 points in Game 4) on the team’s playoff record and flowed fresh positive vibes into the possibility of a series-pleasing outcome.
During the post-game interviews injured Memphis star Ja Morant interrupted an interview with reserve forward Brandon Clarke to declare “Grizz in Seven.”
Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson and Tyus Jones each finished with 21 points. Ziaire Williams, sporting his attention-grabbing, super-high afro, was hot off the bench with 11 points.
As to why the offense worked so well, Jones, who is starting in place of Morant, said, “Focusing on getting good looks, focusing on getting to our spots, and that was kind of it. That was the key. Getting to our spots, getting good looks, and then just taking our shots with confidence. And you just kind of go from there.”
Memphis crushed the Warriors in rebounds (55-27), limiting Golden State to only five second-chance points. Those are two areas where the Warriors had dominated the Grizzlies in this series.
The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson with 19 points. Super Star Stephen Curry only had 14 points, with Johnathan Kuminga adding 17.
Moving forward to Game 6 means doing so in the context of a quick turnaround.
“I think we’re locked in … I think across the board we understand what’s at stake,” said Bane, “…but got to get your rest, recovery. Kind of flush this game. We’re getting on the road with a Golden State team that’s trying to close out a series, veteran team. They’re obviously going to throw a good punch. So, come in there, be ready to play, and keep that same mindset.”
It was clear from the outset that the Grizzlies and their fans were determined that the series was not going to end on the court at FedExForum. The outcome was decided well before the final whistle and the crowd reveled in that reality. When the video of “Whoop That Trick” started, well, the crowd went wild.
Following the afternoon shootaround, Curry was asked what could be expected of the night. “Whoop That Trick,” he said.
The video was played during a timeout and even the Warrior’s bench got into it. Draymond Green, the Golden State star that opposing team fan bases love to hate, was dancing and waving a towel.
“They are not going to ‘whoop that trick’ alone, we’re going to ‘whoop that trick’ together if we’re gonna whoop that trick,” said Green.
“One thing I don’t expect is people to only bring it when they’re winning. You embrace crowds when you’re winning. We call those frontrunners. We got our a** kicked, and that’s all right. It happens, but you don’t be a frontrunner.
“When you spew it out you got to be willing to take it and not hide from it, not duck from it and not run from it; embrace it. I appreciated the crowd tonight and the energy that they brought to the game. If they want to ‘whoop that trick’, we gonna whoop them together.”
Curry said Grizz fans chanting “Whoop That Trick” was “…the best. That’s what this whole back and forth is about in terms of home-court advantage and hostile crowds and you embrace all of that. It’s fun. Even when you’re getting smacked, you’ve got to find some fun in it.
“So, obviously it didn’t pan out the way we wanted to. We’re still in control of the series, but you’ve got to understand it’s going to be really hard to close out this team because they’re a really good team and if we need any more reminder of that, we got it today.”
Tipoff for Game 6 is set for Friday (May 13) at 9 p.m. CT. It can be seen on ESPN.
“Their crowd’s going to be loud too,” said Jackson. “So, we’ve been there before. We just take it one step at a time.”
Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman is the NBA’s 2021-22 Executive of the Year.
Kleiman, 33, won in a landslide vote.
He is the youngest ever to win the award.