Dubs ‘lock in’ after Green ejection to edge Grizz
5: 27 PM ET
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Draymond Green stood in the Golden State Warriors‘ tunnel as the final buzzer sounded for their 117-116 Game 1 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. As his teammates and coaches walked back to their locker rooms, Green gave a warm welcome to each one. As Jordan Poole exited the court, the two had a long embrace, with both screaming at the top of their lungs.
It was as close as Green could get to the action after he was ejected with less that two minutes left in the first half.
“This is a huge game to win, especially with [Green] going out early,” Poole said. “You have to find the grit and grind, buckle down, and lock in offensively as well as defensively. He is a huge part of our team. We were able fill in for his energy. “
As Memphis forward Brandon Clarke went up for a dunk with 1: 18 left in the second quarter, Green initially made contact with Clarke’s head as Green swiped down, grabbing the collar of Clarke’s jersey in the process.
” My hand got caught in his shirt,” Green told Warriors coach Steve Kerr. As they gathered to discuss the call, Green repeated the exact same message to the referees.
After it was deemed a flagrant foul 2, Green ran around the court for several seconds, waving his hands up and down to the crowd and high-fiving his teammates. He was met with boos and roars. Before he left, he gave a final wave to the crowd before he headed down the tunnel.
Green finished the game with six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry told the refs the ejection was “f—ing crazy,” as he, Green and the Warriors expected it to be called a flagrant 1.
“He’s been known for flagrant fouls in his career,” Clarke said. It feels like I’ve been watching him on TV all my life. I wasn’t shocked. Although I don’t like to flop, he did hit me twice when I saw it again. … It’s not surprising that he did this. He has done it before. “
Crew Chief Kane Fitzgerald explained the ruling of the flagrant 2, saying the contact was considered unnecessary and excessive.
” The first part was the wind-up and significant contact to his face. Then, Fitzgerald stated in a pool report that the pull down from the jersey grab, and throw to the floor to an airborne, vulnerable player, made the contact unnecessary and excessive.
After the game, Green said on his podcast he was trying to hold Clarke up, not throw him down, and argued that what he did wasn’t excessive.
” I think tonight it was probably more of a reputation thing than a hard foul,” Green stated, adding that he hopes the fragrant 2 is rescinded.
The Warriors entered the locker room after halftime with a little anger but emerged with a lot of fire.
” We were just determined,” Kerr stated. “We were all shocked by this decision. We were confident and determined and the guys stuck with it. “
Without Green, the Warriors knew they needed to up their defensive energy. They didn’t have to change their game plan. Instead, they plugged center Kevon Looney in Green’s spot and let the rest take care of itself.
In the second half, the Warriors held the Grizzlies to just 29% shooting on contested field goal attempts. The Warriors were particularly stingy in clutch time, contesting 11 of Memphis’ 13 attempts.
Kerr said that the third quarter was when the momentum changed in favor of the Warriors. Golden State began the third on a 13-5 run to get within one.
The two biggest defensive possessions of the game — the two that sealed the win for the Warriors — came from players who are used to big moments in crunch time, but usually on the offensive end: Curry and Klay Thompson.
Following a 26-foot 3-pointer by Thompson that put Golden State up one, Curry blocked Memphis’ Ja Morant with 19.8 seconds left. It was just his third career block inside the final 20 seconds of a game in both the regular season and playoffs.
“Steph has been underrated defensively for a long time,” Kerr said. “I believe this was his best defensive season. That was what we saw all year. … It was a brilliant defensive play from Steph. “
Sixteen seconds later, still up by one, Thompson put the clamps on Morant as he hunted for the winning shot.
” I missed a layup that I make all the time,” Morant stated.
Thompson explained his strategy.
” Thompson stated that he thought he was going after me. “I tried to stop him from getting an open layup, and force him into a difficult shot. And that’s what me and Gary [Payton II] did. “
Curry and Thompson finished with 24 and 15 points, respectively, but foul trouble kept them on a short leash throughout the night. Poole was once again the one who kept the Warriors alive in their absence. He did it at both ends.
In his first playoff game off the bench, Poole scored or assisted on 52 of Golden State’s points, while allowing just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting as the primary defender. He finished the night with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including five 3s, eight rebounds, nine assists and two blocks.
“This is the Jordan we have seen now for the last few months,” Kerr said. “This is how he looks. He’s not always going to hit five 3s, score 31 points, almost get a triple-double, but he’s a playmaker. He is a shot-creator. He’s been a great player for us all season so I didn’t expect this. “
When the Warriors touched down in Memphis on Monday night — just 24 hours after they found out they were facing the Grizzlies in the second round — the goal was to split on the road. They would have been considered successful if they could only win in Memphis before returning to San Francisco.
When they lost their heart and soul in Green less than 24 minutes into the game, it was unclear if the Warriors would use that to spark them or if it would end up costing them the game.
After 12 minutes in the locker room and a few seconds on the court, the answer was clear.
“Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tap into, you just bring it,” Curry said. Curry said that Draymond was out when you feel like, “All right, what are our options?” How will we figure this out? Halftime is a time to regroup. I’m proud of everyone’s approach to the game and how they came out. It was a great atmosphere out there. “
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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