SAN FRANCISCO ― The Memphis Grizzlies were served a slice of humble pie for dessert on Christmas Day.
Memphis has been one of the top NBA teams this season, and a matchup against the Golden State Warriors is what the Grizzlies ordered. Star point guard Ja Morant talked this week about how the Grizzlies are “fine” in the Western Conference, and guard Desmond Bane backed up his comment.
Instead, it was the Warriors who looked like the hungrier team on Sunday night as they defeated the Grizzlies 123-109 at Chase Center.
Memphis (20-12) struggled shooting 3-pointers and got outrebounded. Morant led the Grizzlies with 36 points.
Golden State (16-18) continued its home dominance. Jordan Poole led the Warriors with 32 points before being ejected midway through the fourth quarter.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Grizzlies defense struggles with replacement starters
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins, the two players who were arguably their most impactful pieces in the NBA Finals last season. Poole and Donte Divincenzo started in their places and gave the Grizzlies’ defense the most trouble in the first half. Poole was guarded by Dillon Brooks, who often gets the toughest defensive assignment on the perimeter. Poole used an array of dribble moves to maneuver around the perimeter and make difficult shots. Divincenzo’s looks were more open, and he made three 3-pointers in the first half.
Foul trouble and miscues haunt Grizzlies
Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up his third foul with 7:24 left in the second quarter and finished the first half playing 9:47 due to foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul 11 seconds into the third quarter and went back to the bench. Coach Taylor Jenkins took a gamble and brought Jackson back into the game late into the third quarter, but he picked up his fifth foul. Brooks also picked up four fouls through three quarters.
Both defensive stars watched helplessly as the Warriors shredded the Grizzlies for 40 third quarter points and built a 15-point lead after leading by five at halftime.
Ja Morant shines, but doesn’t get much help
While Brooks and Jackson battled foul trouble, it was Morant who put the Grizzlies on his back. He wasn’t haven’t much success on 3-pointers, but he relentlessly attacked the basket. Morant’s scoring kept the Grizzlies in the game, but Memphis didn’t get enough help for the majority of the night.
A second Grizzlies player didn’t score in double figures until Brooks made two free throws with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter. Santi Aldama, Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke each scored nine or more points, but Memphis needs more from its other two reserves.
John Konchar and Ziaire Williams combined to go scoreless for the majority of the first three quarters. Williams made a 3-pointer to get in the scoring column, but Konchar finished the game scoreless. He has combined to score one point in more than 54 minutes of action in the last three games.
The Grizzlies will take on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at home inside FedExForum. Phoenix will enter that game motivated. Memphis won the last meeting on Friday by 25 points, plus the Suns have star shooting guard Devin Booker back in the lineup after he missed the game.
Brooks said he told Booker during the game that he wants the Suns star to play on Tuesday, so he can guard him. It looks like he could get his wish.