Dillon Brooks returned from the Memphis Grizzlies after a one-match disqualification, deciding to leave a mark on his team in the Western Conference semifinal series with the Golden State Warriors. He was going to have events take place on Monday night in Game 4. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, his footprint mostly followed the erroneous 3-point streets at the back of the ring and getting the ball away.
Brooks (usually) is one of the best players on one of the most exciting young teams in the NBA, but there is no substitute for post-season experience. The grizzlies get a certain portion and it will pay them off in the future, but the future is not now. An experienced opponent in their championship is sure of this.
On Monday, the Grizzlies had every chance of making even seven of the best series in two games each – in San Francisco, at least. But they were 3 points behind when Brooks focused on Jaren Jackson Jr., a teammate who had enough time – about 15 seconds left in the game – to exercise patience. Instead, Jackson scored a 3-pointer with three defenders near him. Golden State player Draymond Green took the ball and Jackson saved it.
“We played a few games there,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said after his team lost 101-98. We just have to learn from him and become better for the next game.
Ahead of Game 5 on Wednesday, the Grizzlies are facing another new experience: the possibility of elimination. They remain 3-1 in the series and the status of Ja Morant, who missed Monday’s loss with right knee pain, is unclear. It seems disgusting to them.
Against a smaller opponent, the Grizzlies might have been able to more easily overcome the youthful rage – now with Morant in his absence. Warriors are no less an opponent. They showed the same in Game 4, even when they missed the first 15 3-point attempts, and even when they only scored 38 points in the first half, and even when they were 12 points behind.
“Released,” said Stephen Carey, who recalled his passionate exchange with Green after Green blocked Jackson’s last-minute shot. “Some effect, ‘this is what you’re doing.’ Every opportunity we have to appreciate its greatness at the bottom of the floor, especially at this point, is what it’s all about.”
Not so long ago there was an expectation that the series would offer 21st century basketball at its best. Here were two teams that could score points with offensive fireworks.
Beyond that, the series seemed to have the potential to emerge as a clash of enjoyable entertainment for generations. The Grizzlies, behind Morant, had new kids on the block, contenders ahead of schedule. Golden State, of course, re-assembled its core after two seasons with injury injuries.
The series, then, should have been an aesthetic delight, overloaded with growing dunes, deep 3-pointers, and mutual respect. Instead, in four games, he was more of a royal bomber than Alvin Eiley. Greene was sent off for a foul in 1 game. Golden State player Gary Peyton II broke his elbow in Game 2 after Brooks punched him in the head when Peyton climbed for Leap. After limping off the field in Game 3, Morant blames Golden State Jordan Poole on social media for producing his own dirty game.
About an hour before the start of Game 4, the broken series became even more bizarre when Golden State announced that Steve Kerry would not be available to coach as he entered the league’s Coronavirus health and safety protocols. Instead, Mike Brown, one of his assistants, called the staff. The weirdest part? Earlier, Sacramento Kings named Brown as the new head coach. (He will stay at Golden State for the post-season.)
Kerry’s absence added to the series feeling tired. Peyton could go for the rest of the post-season. Morant was sitting behind a grizzly chair in a T-shirt. And now Kerr has had to watch the game from home, part of a television viewing audience that has settled into a corneal tired theater evening.
Golden State has a well-deserved reputation for playing a sophisticated brand of basketball. But this is a team that can also win ugly, no small assets in the post-season.
“We’ve been here before and we know how to play games like this,” Karim said.
Without Morant, Memphis wanted to ruin it. After delivering limited minutes in recent weeks, Stephen Adams started from the center and was good, finishing with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The problem was with everyone else. Brooks hit 5 of 19 from the field. Kyle Anderson went 2 of 7 from the penalty shootout. Jackson missed all seven three-point attempts.
“It’s hard when it happens,” he said. “I wanted more of myself.”
The question is whether Memphis has more to give. These young grizzlies seem to need post-season sessions – a quick fusion of the secrets of winning high stakes. They have won a lot in the regular season, ending up with the second best record in the NBA, but win when every game is emotional, when critical rough calls are useless, when defending easy shots is difficult and hard shots are impossible, when free kicks do not feel so free? Learning all this can take years and many players never do. The Grizzlies may have to play as if – without the best player.
Memphis did not disclose the specifics of Morant’s injury, but he was not insured against knee problems. In November, during a terrible start to the regular season, he wiped his left knee and then incorporated it into the league’s health and safety protocols, skipping 12 games. He missed a few more games at the end of the regular season with knee pain.
Nevertheless, Adams said the team could improve on Game 5, which he described as “easy” and “reassuring”. And what were they?
“I can not disclose this information, my friend,” he said. “Keep it a secret. But this is not a difficult case. This is not something we can do. Put it that way. “
Memphis still has time to figure it out. But not so much, especially against Golden State.