The Golden State Warriors were ice cold for three quarters and entered the final period down down seven on Monday, but when it had to be done they found a way to hit the shots and get the stops they needed to grind out a 101-98 win over the Memphis Grizzlies and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Memphis, which was playing without Ja Morant, is not going to forget letting this one get away any time soon. It had every chance to win this game and go back home in a 2-all tie with all the momentum. Now the series feels out of reach.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with a game-high 32 points, but it took him 25 shots to get there. He connected on just four of his 14 3-pointers, but finished the game with eight clutch free throws and 18 fourth-quarter points. Curry, who has been fantastic all postseason in the paint and at the rim, is off on his 3-point shooting and missing wide-open looks pretty regularly.
Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole combined to go 0 for 10 from 3. Andrew Wiggins was 1 for 5 from deep, where the Warriors shot just 24 percent for the game.
Again, if Memphis was ever going to win without Morant, the Warriors shooting this poorly was the chance. Of course, a lot of that was Memphis' defense, which, to be fair, is actually better without Morant.
Steven Adams was back and the double-big lineup with Jaren Jackson Jr. clogged the middle. Memphis outscored the Warriors 56-42 in the paint, and the Warriors managed just 38 points in the first half. The problem is the Grizzlies only scored 41 first-half points. The Warriors, as mentioned, shot 24 percent from 3, but Memphis only shot 25 percent.
The Grizzlies needed to increase those margins on a night when the game was right there for the taking. Memphis just couldn't score enough without its superstar, and Golden State was eventually going to get going, if only for a stretch. It happened over the fourth quarter, when the Warriors eclipsed their entire first-half total with 39 points.
Game 5 is set for Wednesday at Memphis. Will Morant be back? He had an MRI, but the Grizzlies aren't releasing the results, at least not yet. But if you want to do some dot-connecting, there's this:
Taylor Jenkins said Ja Morant had an MRI but declined to reveal the results. Jaren Jackson said he found out more about Morant's injury today and "it's definitely sad." There are some dots you can maybe connect there.— Mark Giannotto (@mgiannotto) May 9, 2022
That doesn't sound great. Until there's official word, we'll hope for the best. Everyone wants to see Morant back on the court and have this series decided at as close to full-strength as possible for both sides.
But again, even if Morant were to make a return, to defeat the Warriors three straight times is asking a lot. This was the game they needed, They had to lead for virtually the entire night. They just couldn't hold on long enough.