San Francisco – Upstaged and outplayed in their NBA at Christmas debut, the Memphis Grizzlies walked away from a sound beating by the Golden State Warriors pondering things they’ve “got to” and “have to” do.
Playing their second game this season with their full complement of starters and with Golden State missing two All-Stars in Stephen Curry and Andre Wiggins, the Warriors controlled the Grizzlies 123 to 109.
“Just got to be better,” said Ja Morant, who finished with 36 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six turnovers in 40 minutes of action. “Obviously, come out with more fire. It came down to making shots. I think they shot 50 (percent) from three (point range). We shot terrible. There you go right there. You are not going to win many like that.”
Jaren Jackson Jr., who was neutralized by foul trouble that began early, echoed what was a post-game refrain.
“We got to start better,” said Jackson, who had 11 points, two rebounds and a turnover as he managed to stay on the court for only 21 minutes. “We need to stick with the game plan. We have to understand what we are doing and they were hitting a lot of shots.”
Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins stated what had to be obvious to the national television audience.
“They had better energy than us today,” said Jenkins. “They played great. Their physicality, their pace and their ball movement was phenomenal, regardless of who we had on the court.”
The Warriors (16-18) started the game determined not to get off to a slow start against the Grizzlies (20-11). They led by as many as seven points (15-8) in the first quarter, with the Grizzlies pushing back to take a one-point advantage (26-25) with 3:06 to go. Making 6 of 11 three-pointers, the Warriors were up 33-29 heading into the second.
Jordan Poole was a problem. He scored 17 points in the first quarter as he made four of five from deep. Stepping in for the injured Curry, Poole, a noted loudmouth, had 32 points before he picked up a second technical foul and was ejected from the game with 9:06 left to play. The Warriors led 106-89 at that juncture.
Memphis was down by as many as 13 points on several occasions in the second quarter. In character, they battled and trimmed the lead to 59-54 by halftime.
With their fans hopeful, Memphis did not start the third quarter well. Eleven seconds into it, Jackson picked up his fourth foul. Three minutes later, Brooks did the same. Absorbing a run by the Warriors, the Grizzlies surged back within three (80-77) but they could not sustain the push and were down 15 (99-84) going into the final quarter.
Poole’s fourth-quarter ejection notwithstanding, Memphis could not climb back against a Golden State team that has been good at home (13-2) this season and very bad on the road (3-16).
“I don’t think there is a great reason for it,” said All-Star guard Klay Thompson, who had 24 points. “We will win a lot of road games this year. Our road record is not very good right now. There is a lot more games to play. I am not going to panic right now. We haven’t been whole yet. We have a lot to improve.”
So-called trash talk between the defending NBA champion Warriors and the Grizzlies has been ongoing since Golden State ended Memphis’ run last season. There were six technical fouls called in the game. The last was on Thompson for taunting Brooks as he lay on the floor.
“The refs let it happen,” said Brooks of Thompson’s trash-talking. “It was happening all game…. It is wack to me. (Messing) up calls, putting the wrong guys on the free throw line. It was a circus. We should have had different refs.”
Golden State fans showed their lingering disdain for Brooks on every foul (five) and free throw (four of five).
Brooks (13 points, three rebounds, one assist, and five turnovers) echoed the assessment Jackson made about the game.
“We have to follow the game plan in the first half,” he said, adding, “It was a physical and hard game. We shot it bad and we are going to move on to the next game.”
The three-point differential was stark. The Warriors made 18 of 44 (40.9 percent), with Donte Divincenzo hitting his season-high and a game-high five of them as he totaled 19 points.
The Grizzlies made nine of 39 (23.1 percent). In his second game back from an extended injury absence, Memphis shooting guard Desmond Bane (nine points) has not yet regained his shooting touch. He made two of 13 shots and none of his seven three-pointers.
The Grizzlies entered the game tied with Denver for first place in the Western Conference. They dropped to a tie for second with New Orleans after Denver pulled out a win over Phoenix in the last of the NBA’s Christmas Day games.
Memphis hosts Phoenix (19-15) on Tuesday (Dec. 27). The two teams played last Friday, with Memphis downing the Suns 125-100.