After the Golden State Warriors’ 117-116 win in Game 1, Stephen Curry reflected on his carefree childhood on Monday.
Every student at Davidson was given a CatCard, which allowed him access to all campus facilities, including the gym and cafeteria. Whereas Ja Morant, his opponent in the Western Conference playoffs, has spent his early 20s spearheading one of the most rapid NBA rebuilds in recent memory, Curry claimed he was still forgetting his CatCard and struggling to remember the location of his dorm room. And as Curry was learning how to play the professional game, Morant was commanding games with his intensity behind Acie Law IV.
Morant, on the other hand, has been making art in place of Curry’s ID cards. Memphis’ 106-101 victory in Game 2 is the crowning achievement of Morant’s career. He scored 47 points while shooting 64% from the field. He pulled a sluggish Grizzlies squad by the scruff of the neck, netting Memphis’ last 15 points in the process.
When asked how Tuesday night’s performance ranked in Morant’s career, he said, “Definitely up there.” A “must-win game” for both the team and for the player who missed a layup in the first game.
Asked about his thinking and approach for fourth-quarter takeovers, Morant gave a succinct answer for the second time in the last two weeks. He didn’t go into detail about how the defence was plotting or how he was feeling. “Go fetch a bucket,” is the slogan.
After receiving a shot to the left eye in the third quarter, Morant stated he was unable to see well enough to make these baskets in Game 2. Even with a blindfold on, Morant can navigate his way to the basket using just his vision as a compass.
Morant has proclaimed himself the series’ top player after two games. Curry and his teammate Klay Thompson have had trouble shooting the ball far. Only three of Draymond Green’s 13 possible assists in Game 2 were converted by the Golden State Warriors, according to Second Spectrum. The Grizzlies look to be in a good position, even if the two clubs are equally matched, despite the fact that Las Vegas does not exist.
An intriguing contrast is presented by the show’s several strands.
The Warriors’ lineage gives them a distinct personality that they’ve developed over the course of seven years: Defense that can go two halves without making a mistake in a pass-happy style, enthusiastic delight combined with hyperintelligence. The Warriors’ worst 3-point shooting performance by percentage (18.4) during their current dynasty period was an exception, not the norm.
These traits are still there, but this Warriors team also had some unknowns heading into the playoffs. During the regular season, Curry, Green, Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins played together for a grand total of nine seconds. Even the Warriors aren’t sure who they are this season, but they do know what they are. Although it may seem strange to say it, the 2022 Warriors are still in the early stages of development.
Opposing dynamic is provided by the Grizzlies. Even though Dillon Brooks has been out for 50 games, their youthful core has matured together this season. They’ve honed their two-way communication skills to a fine art. In their drive-and-kick game, Morant’s penetration is a key component. In the first month of the season, Memphis shifted their defence to the interior, paid attention to the gaps, and became one of the top teams in the league at defending shots 14 feet in the paint. Because that type of accomplishment doesn’t come by chance, it’s a vindication of the method.
Although the Grizzlies are only beginning a lengthy life cycle, no team can adequately know what its DNA will disclose about it in maturity at this early stage. When it comes to their first major playoff appearance, the Warriors are a gift rather than a curse. To counter it, it’s an opportunity to study championship basketball. Morant and the Grizzlies seem to be fast learners, based on their performance in the second game.
After the final whistle sounded in Sunday’s Game 1 between Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, Curry made a point to meet up with Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. before they headed to their respective locker rooms. This was going to be a tough conference semifinal series, according to the two-time MVP and his big man. Curry promised that they would have a good time.
After Game 2, Morant remarked, “I was able to return the message today, saying the same thing.” “Playing against a talented player like him is always one of my favourite challenges. There will be a fight.”
Both Curry and Morant have a mutual appreciation society. Old-timers may despise it, but it’s a trademark of this generation of great competitors. When he sees a successor, Curry has the self-confidence to acknowledge it. Even on a night when he couldn’t see properly, Morant still recognises the face of a mentor.