The plus side of the Memphis Grizzlies’ backs-against-the-wall playoff position is that the wall frames their homecourt at FedExForum.
On Wednesday night, Memphis – now down three games to the Golden State Warriors – faces a must-win Game 5 to extend the best-of-seven series. That longshot scenario became the Grizzlies’ reality when they lost Game 4 (101-98) at the Chase Center in San Francisco on Monday night.
“We have a game at home and our fans are going to give us a boost,” Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said after the Grizzlies came close to defying the odds and winning Game 4 on the road without the injured Ja Morant whose status for Game 5 is uncertain but not likely.
Ahead after three quarters and up 76-64 with 10:35 left in the game, Memphis could not turn back Golden State’s closing charge. The Warrior’s first lead of the game (94-93) came on free throws by Stephen Curry (32 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter) with 45.7 seconds left to play.
“It is a tough one to swallow,” said Tyus Jones, who started at point guard with Morant out with a right knee bone bruise. “We were leading the whole game. We put ourselves in a position to win.”
Jones (19 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds) added, “You can’t hold your head. We still have games to play. Our backs are up against the wall. We have got to be ready to go back home.”
At home against the Warriors in the series, Memphis is 1-1 after capturing Game 2 largely on the strength of Morant’s 47-point eruption, including the team’s last 15 points.
“You recognize the good things you do and focus on the season is not over with yet,” said Jenkins, putting the team’s emotions into context heading to Game 5. “I told them to forget what the record is and focus on just winning a game. … If you play with effort and juice, you are going to have a chance to win every night. Hopefully, we will get the result we like.”
The post-game media debriefing had the Grizzlies fielding the question of what made the difference between winning and losing in the last few minutes of the game.
Reserve forward Kyle Anderson (17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and a key late block) said, “They made shots. They got to the line, we didn’t. That is the name of the game. You have to play for 48 minutes against this type of team. I think we played all 48 minutes hard. We just didn’t make shots down the end.”
Looking back after the victory slipped from the Grizzlies’ grasp, Anderson said, “It is tough. It is hard. I felt we should have walked away with the win. You can’t hang your head for too long. We will figure out where we need to be better and try to go win a game on Wednesday.
“It is tough, especially against a team like that, where we played hard and didn’t come out with the win.”
Kept on edge much of the game by Memphis’ resolve, the Warriors’ Chase-Arena fans were there for them down the stretch as Golden State surged toward the win.
“We are excited to get back to our fans,” said Anderson. “It is a big game for us. We are going to go out there and fight. We are going to take it one game at a time. Our fans are going to have our backs.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. had 21 points and 5 blocks for Memphis in the loss. With the Warrior’s defense, particularly Draymond Green, draped around in the closing seconds, Jackson misfired on a three that would have tied the game.
“I missed. I took it and I thought it was going in,” said Jackson. “I could have done more to attack. That is the shot I work on every day. I will take it again. …
“We will carry over the good things to the next game. We will figure out how to win one game at a time. We are back home. We have our fans. It is going to be loud. We have another chance to play.”
Center Steven Adams, who had been unavailable because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, made his presence felt throughout the game, finishing with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 assists.
“You don’t pay attention to the series. You are up 3-1 or down 3-1, you have to take it game by game. Nothing changes as for the mindset for us,” said Adams.
While the loss was tough all around for the Grizzlies, the shooting performance of Dillion Brooks (5 of 19 overall, 2 of 9 on three-pointers) positioned him for particular scrutiny regarding his shot selection. He returned to the starting lineup after being ejected for a Game 2 flagrant foul that netted a Game 3 suspension.
“I have a lot of trust in him,” said Jenkins. “I love what he was doing defensively. He had a big 2 and 3 late in the game. The ball just wasn’t bouncing for him late in the game.”
Anderson’s message to brooks: “Keep shooting. We live and die with him … We have all the confidence in him. … You can’t get upset with him when the ball isn’t going in for him. We want him to stay confident and be aggressive.”
Tipoff for Game 5 is set for 8:30 p.m. The game can be seen on TNT.