Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies into playoffs after ousting Warriors in overtime

SAN FRANCISCO — The Memphis Grizzlies are headed to the playoffs because Ja Morant delivered in the biggest moment of his young career.

The 21-year-old scored 35 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out six assists in a thrilling 117-112 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors. The win not only gave the Grizzlies the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs, it gave Morant the added bonus of toppling two-time MVP Stephen Curry and a proud Warriors group in the process.

With the Grizzlies clinging to a 110-109 lead late in overtime, Morant hit two straight running 10-foot floaters, including one with 4.5 seconds left that sealed the deal. He had 15 points total in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Grizzlies win in the final play-in game of the year is one of the biggest in recent franchise history — especially given that many around the league expected Curry to carry his team into the postseason. Memphis returns to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and will play the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Sunday.

Whenever the Grizzlies needed to make a play, Morant or one of his other young teammates rose to the occasion on Friday night. Memphis roared out to an early 13-point lead at halftime, raising it up to as many as 17 in the second half before a furious Warriors second-half rally erased the deficit and sent the game into overtime. Warriors forward Draymond Green had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but missed a running floater as time expired in regulation.

Once overtime hit, Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen hit several huge shots, followed up by Xavier Tillman, who hit a three-pointer with 1:20 that gave the Grizzlies the lead and set the stage for Morant’s clutch buckets in the final minute.

What makes this particular win even sweeter for Morant and the Grizzlies is that it comes just just five days after the Warriors beat them inside Chase Center to earn the eighth seed heading into the Play-In Tournament. The loss forced the Grizzlies to fly back to Memphis for an elimination game against the San Antonio Spurs and then they had to fly back to the Bay Area to face Curry and the Warriors once more.

Aside from Morant’s heroics, it was the solid defense the Grizzlies played throughout the night that helped push them to victory. The Warriors finished with 21 turnovers, including 13 by Curry and Green.

In a season where it always seemed like Curry had an answer for his team, it was Morant that had the last laugh on Friday night.

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