The Golden State Warriors needed to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night to earn a spot in the Western Conference Finals. Despite the fact that Ja Morant did not play due to a bone bruise in his knee, the Grizzlies were able to pick up an emphatic, 39-point win to shift the series back to the west coast for a gigantic Game 6.
It’s the latest in a fascinating trend that has occurred all season: the Grizzlies turn into killers when their best player is sidelined. During the regular season, Memphis was 20-5 without Morant, and one can argue that Wednesday night was their best performance of the postseason.
Draymond Green, in his latest postgame podcast, gave a really detailed breakdown as to why this is the case. Essentially, Green boils it down to the fact that “this is not the team that we were playing to start this series.”
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“You kinda have to rethink the whole gameplan, because our gameplan was built around Ja Morant, and it’s not that anymore, and they’re a totally different team,” Green said. “They’re a totally different team without Ja — more guys touch the ball, you kinda got to account for more guys on a normal basis when Ja isn’t on the floor. They’re also a different team defensively when Ja isn’t on the floor, and I think that’s something that’s been understated as well. You’re putting Ja into actions and different things like that, and you’re not really doing that now defensively, because they have a bunch of like-sized guys, they’re switching things, different stuff of that nature.”
Green went on to say that he doesn’t mean any of this as a criticism of Golden State’s staff, because the biggest problem on Wednesday was that the players got hit with a haymaker and did not respond correctly. The team will get another chance to end the series against the Morant-less Grizzlies on Friday night.