Warriors need Steph to fire back at Ja, Grizzlies to win series


With Klay Thompson battling the inconsistencies that come with ongoing physical recovery, Draymond Green occasionally offsetting his brilliance by straying off task and Jordan Poole subjected to the pitfalls of rapid stardom, the recovery of the Warriors once again falls to their most evolved presence.

It’s not entirely up to Stephen Curry to save them, but the remainder of this Western Conference semifinals against the Grizzlies likely will be decided upon his production and efficiency.

Memphis guard Ja Morant has shaken whatever nagged him in the first round against Minnesota and is bringing the fire to the Warriors. He has been as remorseless as he has been relentless.

After two tense games in Memphis left the series tied 1-1, this definitely is an instance in which fire must be fought with fire.

That’s Curry, who has spent most of the past decade as perhaps the most lethal offensive presence in the NBA. If he can’t torment the Grizzlies in a way similar to that Morant is doing to the Warriors, there might not be a way out.

Curry has to be better, smarter and more careful, something he seemed to realize in the hours after a 106-101 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday.

“We did a really good job until the fourth quarter where we just had some boneheaded turnovers – myself,” he said. “Right when I got back in, two turnovers leads to two 3s and gives them life.”

The Warriors seemed to be in good position, leading 83-80, when Curry reentered with 8:55 left in the game. This was, considering Golden State’s substantial edge in postseason experience, winning time. Over the next 58 seconds, Curry had two turnovers and the Grizzlies had an 86-83 lead.

The Warriors committed five turnovers in the fourth, and Curry, who scored eight points in the quarter, was responsible for three during his nine minutes.

Morant reentered the game at the exact same time as Steph, 8:55 remaining. He scored 18 of the Grizzlies’ 26 points during that span and did so without a turnover. He scored all 15 Memphis points over the final 4:16.

Ja took the Grizzlies home.

He sent Steph and the Warriors home to examine and analyze what all went wrong.

“We got to look at our shot selection in terms of making them really guard, especially if we don't have the 3-ball going,” Curry said. “We really tried to force it to happen tonight. And you can live and die by that in terms of hoping that the rim opens at some point, and it obviously didn't for us.

“We have to understand how to finish a game if we're not shooting the ball well with the type of shots and we're trying to get.”

This is what might be expected of a team like the Grizzlies. They’re young, average age is 24, and at times impetuous. They’re a few days beyond winning their first postseason series.

But, no, this was the Warriors, with a core steeped in the way of the playoffs. This was Curry, who owns three championship rings and is two months removed from his 34th birthday. He and his team were guilty of mistakes that should be beneath them.

“We tried too hard tonight and proud of the guys; the effort was amazing,” coach Steve Kerr said. “They rebounded like crazy, made a lot of great hustle plays. Competed. But in order to win this series, we've got to compete smart. We've got to execute better, and I know we're capable of doing that.”

In addition to the 18 turnovers (Memphis had 13), the Warriors shot woefully (18.4 percent) from distance in Game 2. They almost won because they rebounded better – four players had at least four rebounds – and pounded the paint for 60 points.

Still, it’s an even series. The Warriors gained homecourt advantage by winning Game 1 in Memphis. Games 3 and 4 will be at Chase Center. There will be a lineup change, as Gary Payton II, who started the first two games, will miss an extended period of time with a fractured left elbow sustained on the dangerous hit by Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks in Game 2.

“It’s in our DNA; we know what to do,” Curry said. “That's why a game like that down the stretch with a possession here possession there in the last six minutes, we feel like we should win those type of games. And if we don't, it’s a tough feeling.

“But we have to understand the big picture. We came and got one, we’ll take care of our home court on Saturday.”

RELATED: Steph, Draymond angered over Brooks' foul on GP2

Without GP2, there is an urgency for the Warriors to contain Ja, as 44 of his 47 points in Game 2 came after Payton exited. Among the victims were Andrew Wiggins, Poole and Curry.

No doubt Curry is triggered by seeing the opposing point guard taking over the game. No doubt the competitor within would like to return the favor. It might be required for the Warriors to prevail.

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