How the Warriors Outlasted and Upset the Grizzlies on Christmas Day

SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe the greatest play of the Warriors’ short-handed 123-109 Christmas win over the Grizzlies came when half the crowd was still returning from the crowd. It was the first possession of the second half. Jaren Jackson Jr. was guarding Draymond Green, giving Green the green light to commit the foul.

The Warriors controlled the first half, leading by as many as 16 points. But a 6-0 Tyus Jones run in the final 27 seconds cut the Memphis deficit to five. The Grizzlies had momentum coming out of the locker room, but they also had an elite rim-protecting center who failed to stay on the floor in the first half due to three quick fouls. For the Warriors to hold on, they needed Jackson to save them from the fourth whistle.

No one knew this better than Green, a hoops genius who tends to lock in especially during big matchups. He knew Jackson’s foul, the importance for the Grizzlies And His tendency to act paranoid when he shouldn’t be reaching out. So, eight seconds into the half, Green came up with Donte DiVincenzo strolling in for a typical dribble handoff, saw Jackson’s long arm reach into the near airspace and gave himself a quick audible in a fake DHO dive, which Jackson made. Flown in the arm.

whistle, Green found what he was looking for and immediately extended four fingers toward the Memphis bench, alerting the Grizzlies that it was already time to take Jackson out of the game. Here’s the clip.

The NBA has earmarked this matchup for one of its marquee Christmas matchups because of mutual disdain neither side can hide from. It’s a healthy interplay between a rising, confident young contender obsessed with knocking an established champion off the blocks.

Memphis’ core is short, long and bouncier and had games when they physically overwhelmed the older, slower Warriors. But like the totality of winning a six-game second-round series seven months ago, the Warriors look to outwit the Grizzlies, defeating them in modest ways that have always produced reigning champions. Green’s batting for a Jackson foul is just one small example in a game full of them.

“He’s talented,” Klay Thompson said. “We are talented. We are experienced.

It turns out to be a terrible time for the Warriors to inspire a finally healthy Grizzlies squad after the recent return of Desmond Bain. Steph Curry will miss at least a few more weeks and Andrew Wiggins missed his 10th straight game with what coach Steve Kerr admitted has been an injury for longer than expected.

But – easy to say in retrospect – this could actually prove to be the right time for the Warriors to draft the Grizzlies. They came back home faltering after a 1–5 trip that dropped them to 15–18 on the season, and they needed a lock-in performance to jump-start an eight-game homestand as they lost to Curry. Used to try to tread water for a long time. Return.

Hare, listed as suspicious with leg soreness, looked physically fine and brought his distinctive focus to a big stage. While seeing so much action, he had 13 rebounds, 13 assists and his signature technique. Thompson didn’t shoot it well, but he was physical defensively and spent the night yapping at the Grizzlies, fumbling Dillon Brooks after Thompson basically buried a jumper to seal the win. Stopped with a memorable taunt.

Thompson said, “Just some good old fashioned talk.” “I didn’t think it technically warranted one, but I forgot about the taunting rule.”

Jordan Poole played the most important role of the night. To beat Memphis’ defensive length and activity, you need a shot maker and creator. Without Curry and Wiggins, the Warriors are basically left with Poole, who was coming off the rough end of the most recent road trip.

Poole scored 17 points in the first quarter, fighting through Jackson’s length and Brooks’ physicality behind the Grizzlies’ overplay scheme to score on a variety of stepback 3s, midrangers and floaters. He had 32 points in 29 minutes early in the fourth quarter. But that too after he stared down official Mark Davis after a no-call and was hit with a second technicality, leading to an automatic ejection. It was Poole’s eighth technical of the season.

“He knows he can’t get another,” said Kerr. “He’s still a young player. Jordan was fantastic tonight. We needed his offensive firepower. The best thing with Jordan is I still think he’s got a level or two up and really wanted to play that.” Got to the point where he’s reaching his ceiling. It involves playing with balance – whether it’s evading referees or taking care of the ball. But he’s competing and helping to keep us afloat.”

After Poole’s ejection, Bain hit a free throw that cut the Warriors’ lead to 16 with 9:20 left. In the absence of context, this distinction seems innocuous, but without Curry, Wiggins and Poole it felt tenuous as the Warriors have shown a lack of bench punch for most of the season.

But that’s what was different and exciting about this game for him. The focused veterans took the lead, but the younger group followed behind. Kerr went to a lineup including Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman late in the first quarter, and after a five-minute stretch, the Warriors actually held a two-point lead against one of the deepest teams in the league.

Kerr put him back into the rotation in the second half, and all three lottery picks delivered productive minutes. After a Poole ejection, Moody scored 10 points and had a big 3 in the fourth quarter. That was plus-2. Kuminga made his way to eight free throws. It was plus-21. Wiseman didn’t even attempt a shot in his eight minutes, but he had perhaps the best defensive stretch of his early career.

After Wiseman’s first-half run, Kerr came to publicize him and also told him about his lone negative: “Foul bull was—.”

Kerr said of Wiseman, “He was great defensively.” “Great. Paint patrolling. Staying between the ball and the basket but still being able to cover the role man.

Kerr, in an extended interview in New York last week, went into more detail on the development of Wiseman (and Kuminga and Moody’s). You can read it here.

But the kind of advanced assets that Kerr is referring to are as follows. In the 10-second clip, he bottles up several pick-and-roll actions and comes on the weak side to contest a shot.

Or how about a cheering sequence for the Warriors’ front office and coaching staff? Kuminga opens at Ja Morant. The Grizzlies shut him down to allow Morant to attack Wiseman. Kuminga recognizes this and gets back on the play in time to stop Morant’s baseline drive. Wiseman recognizes and drops back into position to guard the rim. Morant dribbled a pass out of bounds.

Donte DiVincenzo hit two huge 3s in the first quarter, totaled five points and scored 19 points, continuing his rise. Anthony Lamb made three 3s in the first half. Ty Jerome had what Kerr called the biggest sequence of the night, making three straight jumpers in a 65-second span to separate the Warriors. They are getting useful production from their two-way contracted players.

It all came together for their second win overall in their last two home games. The Warriors are 16-18, but they beat the Celtics very convincingly without Wiggins and completely surrounded the Grizzlies without Curry and Wiggins, taunting them the whole way. These were their two biggest threats in the playoffs a season ago. None of the rivals have yet solved them in advantageous scenarios.

Kerr said, “I just challenged people to make it.” “We have seven straight home games coming up. We’ve been pretty good at home, but we haven’t really built up a lot of momentum this year. It’s kind of a stop and start. So it looks like it’s time to turn it on.

(Photo of Draymond Green driving against Jaren Jackson Jr.: Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY)

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