MEMPHIS — Moments after the Grizzlies pummeled the Golden State Warriors to keep their season alive, Ja Morant started a chant that gained some steam among his teammates.
The injured Morant repeatedly chanted, “Grizz in seven,” after Memphis routed Golden State 134-95 in Game 5 on Wednesday night to send the Western Conference semifinals back to San Francisco with the Warriors’ series lead cut to 3-2.
As a few of his teammates cheered him on, Morant made sure everyone heard his message. While Memphis forward Brandon Clarke was doing a postgame interview on the court, Morant grabbed the microphone and shouted it again: “Grizz in seven!”
Even without their star point guard, who missed his second straight game due to a bone bruise in his right knee, the Grizzlies dominated the Warriors. Memphis led by as much as 55 points, and its 39-point win tied for the third-largest victory when facing elimination in NBA postseason history, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
The Grizzlies believe they have new life and hope that they can prevail again to force a Game 7 in Memphis.
“I would say we are energized,” forward Dillon Brooks said. “We’re locked in, and we’re all eyes on Game 6. Try to keep surviving.”
The Grizzlies blew open a one-point game, turning it into a 77-50 halftime lead in a matter of 13 minutes. Memphis scored 25 points off 14 Golden State turnovers and had 36 points in the paint in the first half alone.
“It was awful,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who suffered through the second-largest loss in a game in which he, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green all played together.
“It was embarrassing. From the opening tip, they had great flow, and they were more aggressive than us. … We all had the mindset that we were going to close it out tonight, but sometimes basketball [isn’t] an exact science, and we played like a shell of ourselves.”
The Grizzlies opened the third with a staggering 42-14 run as their lead swelled to 119-64 with 40 seconds left in the quarter. Making matters worse for Golden State, Otto Porter Jr. was ruled out for the second half because of right knee soreness.
Asked what went wrong for the Warriors, Curry replied, “Everything.”
“Down by 55, down by five, lost by 55, lost by five — we lost,” Green said. “It’s one game in the loss column in the series. Don’t make too much of it.”
For the Grizzlies, though, this was just another example of them rallying without their floor general. Memphis improved to 21-6 this season when playing without Morant.
“We feel like we have not necessarily been doubted but we have exceeded expectations,” guard Desmond Bane said when asked about the Grizzlies’ belief that they can turn this series around. “Ever since I have been here, it almost seems like whenever somebody thinks we can’t do something, we end up doing it. I never want to put a limit on this team on what we can do. ‘Cause anything’s possible.”
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was asked after the game whether there is any possibility of Morant returning for Game 6. Morant is considered doubtful to return this postseason from his injury.
“As of now,” Jenkins said, “pretty doubtful.”
One thing is certain: The Warriors know they have to respond on their home court.
“It doesn’t feel good losing by as much as we did,” Thompson said. “But in a day, it’s just a loss. You flush it from your mental, and you remind yourself who you are.
“And we’re going to play with a 100 percent effort on Friday. I like our chances.”
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