It was May 21 last year when the Memphis Grizzlies ended the Golden State Warriors’ season in the play-in tournament at Chase Center in San Francisco. The win ended a four-year postseason drought and fast-tracked the Grizzlies to higher expectations.
On Friday, 358 days later, the Warriors got revenge in the same building winning 110-96 in Game 6 and claim the series 4-2 in the Western Conference semifinals. All-Star point guard Ja Morant was sidelined instead of hitting game-clinching baskets and the Grizzlies walked off the court as their historic season ended
The Warriors, headed to their sixth conference finals since 2015, acknowledged their efforts with Draymond Green seeking out Morant for hugs and words before the final buzzer. Green began the series being ejected in Game 1 for a flagrant foul and ended it praising the Grizzlies for their fight.
“That’s a group of young guys that are hungry, they are talented, they are athletic. They got it,” Green said. “You know, it will good to see their progression over these next few years and where they can take it because that’s an incredible young team. You know, they can be special. They can be really special.”
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There were some final petty moments, of course, in a series that got heated on social media. Warriors fans chanted “Whoop That Trick” – the Grizzlies and Memphis’ unofficial anthem – in the fourth quarter as their team pulled away with a closing 24-7 run.
Warriors rookie forward Jonathan Kuminga, who didn’t play Friday, tweeted “Whoop That” after the game. That earned friendly response from Morant saying “gotta earn some stripes first kid” with a laughing emoji.
Green participated with Grizzlies fans chanting it during Game 5 and said it was good for Warriors fans to give back a taste of their medicine. Stephen Curry called it phenomenal and “part of the fun of the playoffs.”
But he also gave Morant props by calling him a “problem” and adding “the sky’s the limit” for him. He agreed with Green that the Grizzlies have a bright future because they won 56 games this season and pushed the Warriors through a six-game series.
It added another chapter between these teams since the 2015 semifinals. Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson remain from those battles that helped begin their championship dynasty.
There’s no telling what sprouts from this version of the Grizzlies losing to the Warriors. But seeds were planted and although the Warriors got payback for last season, they know something good is growing in Memphis to keep their eye on.
“There’s definitely an understanding that they made us better. I’m sure we made them better,” Curry said. “Who knows what happens down the road. But they’ll be here for a long time just because they have a lot going for them.”
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You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org