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Golden State miss NBA playoffs as Ja Morant’s 35 lift Memphis to play-in win


Ja Morant made consecutive jumpers in the final 48 seconds of overtime and scored 35 points, Memphis had an answer for every Stephen Curry flurry, and the Grizzlies are headed back to the playoffs for the first time in four years after holding off the Golden State Warriors 117-112 on Friday night in a thrilling play-in game.

Jordan Poole hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:50 left in OT for Golden State only to see Xavier Tillman answer with a baseline three moments later. Poole lost the ball out of bounds leading to Morant’s basket with four seconds left, then Poole made another improbable three with two seconds remaining.

Morant shot 14 for 29 with five three-pointers as Memphis more than doubled its total from deep this time against Golden State to win on the Warriors’ home floor just five days after losing 113-101 in the regular-season finale.

Curry, who became scoring champion against the Grizzlies on Sunday, finished with 39 points and six three-pointers while dazzling in front of an animated, roaring crowd of 7,505 in the biggest game yet at second-year Chase Center.

Memphis had an answer for every Stephen Curry flurry in Friday’s play-in win over Golden State.

Memphis earned the No 8 seed and advanced to face top-seeded Utah in the first round of the best-of-seven Western Conference playoffs. Game 1 is Sunday in Salt Lake City.

“A fight. We played them earlier in the season, obviously came up short,” Morant said. “ The best team in the league right now. We know what to expect. We have to lock in and play 48 minutes.”

These teams needed every tick of the clock in the extra period to decide this one following a furious final minute-plus of regulation – and the NBA had to love it.

Andrew Wiggins tied it on a layup with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a pretty pass from new star Poole and Memphis committed a shot-clock violation on the other end.

Kyle Anderson made a pair of free throws with 54.9 seconds left after being fouled by Curry, who had just converted two free throws to tie the game at 1:12. Curry drove through the paint and drew the sixth foul on Jonas Valanciunas.

The Grizzlies came with aggression, determination and absolutely no fear, going at Golden State every which way – crashing the offensive glass to create extra chances, jumping in the passing lanes to force turnovers and getting far more production from the bench than in the previous two games.

Then Curry let loose, just as he did all season in one of his best years yet.

Curry’s three-point play with 9:40 left got Golden State to 80-78, then he made a magnificent three the next time down while falling backward. Morant hit from deep moments later.

Memphis had to get to the postseason the hard way: winning a pair of play-in games.

The Grizzlies held off San Antonio 100-96 at home Wednesday night, then traveled back to the Bay Area. The Warriors lost a heartbreaker to LeBron James and the Lakers 103-100 at Staples Center on Wednesday.

Memphis ended a three-year playoff drought since making seven straight appearances through 2016-17, and has lost in the first round in its previous two trips and four of those seven appearances in all.

Down 24-14, Curry scored 10 straight points with a three-point play, four-point play and long 3-pointer to get Golden State within 26-24 late in the first.

The Warriors wanted to be focused from the opening tip, expecting another hot start by the Grizzlies who delivered just that – making their first seven shots and three threes to jump ahead 18-6.

Memphis went ahead early on Golden State last week and also against the Spurs.

“We’ve got to be prepared for their quick start,” said Steve Kerr, who called timeout at the 8:31 mark of the opening quarter. Every Golden State starter but Kent Bazemore had an early turnover.

Golden State missed Curry Splash Brother Klay Thompson for the second straight season, this time as he nurses a torn right achilles tendon suffered just before training camp that required surgery.

The Warriors fell short of returning to the playoffs for the first time since reaching five straight NBA finals in 2019 before losing in six games to Toronto.



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