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    Against Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors Feel Range of Emotions

    A tense playoff series against the Grizzlies has Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green reliving the emotional roller coaster of their championship runs.MEMPHIS — The Golden State Warriors expected a physical fight in Game 2 of their second-round N.B.A. playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies. But to lose that game, 106-101, and to lose a beloved defender to a fractured elbow? Those events they did not expect.It created a mélange of emotions after the game — anger, disappointment, frustration.Still, point guard Stephen Curry, the emotional center of the team, offered several reasons Golden State did not plan to panic.“It’s going to be a long three days with that feeling, but we understand what we need to do,” he said.And also: “We’ve been in a lot of different series that’s taken a lot of twists and turns.”And later: “Lot of adversity, a lot of adrenaline and emotion. We’ve just got to win four games somehow some way.”The loss, on Tuesday night, showed the challenge of the emotional balance the Warriors pride themselves on having. As they attempt to win another championship, they are finally getting to play in high-stakes games after a two-year postseason drought. With that comes the potential for highs, like their emotional 1-point win in Game 1 against the Grizzlies, but also lows, like the way they felt after their loss Tuesday. The series, which is tied 1-1, will continue in San Francisco with Game 3 on Saturday.“Everybody’s bummed out,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “But it’s the playoffs, so everybody will shower up and we’ll get on the plane and head home. We’re in a good spot.”Golden State forward Draymond Green raised his middle fingers toward a booing Memphis crowd as he left the court after an inadvertent elbow to the face left him bloodied.Brandon Dill/Associated PressThe two years during which Golden State missed the playoffs made those players who had been through the championship years that much more wistful for the thrill of playoff stakes.“I think it’s almost like a drug in some ways,” said the assistant coach Ron Adams, who has been with the team since 2014.Only six players from the last N.B.A. finals run, in 2019, remain, but they have returned to the playoffs with a deeper understanding of their emotions.“I got excited after Game 1 because it was such a hard-fought game, but as soon as I went back to the hotel that adrenaline wore off and I realized it’s just one game and it’s a marathon,” guard Klay Thompson, 32, said. “For me, I think I’m a lot more centered than I was our first time doing this.”He also believes some things haven’t changed, and shouldn’t.“I’ve been through the biggest battles with Dray, and he embraces those moments, he embraces being the villain,” Thompson said of forward Draymond Green. “We need that. He really makes us go, and without him, we’re not the Warriors.”On Tuesday morning, Kerr had said Golden State expected Game 2 to be the most physical game the team had played all season.It roiled their emotions, with the hostile Grizzlies crowd lifting the home team. Memphis guard Ja Morant scored 47 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies capitalized on Golden State’s mistakes late. But the opening minutes set a tense tone.Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks was ejected less than three minutes into the game, having received a flagrant-2 foul after swiping Gary Payton II across the head as Payton was in the air to try to make a basket. Payton fractured his elbow when he landed awkwardly.“I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was dirty,” Kerr said, later accusing Brooks of jeopardizing Payton’s career.Green also left the game in the first quarter after Xavier Tillman inadvertently elbowed him in the face. Hearing boos from the crowd, Green raised his middle fingers toward the fans as he left the court to get stitches above his right eye.“It felt really good to flip them off,” said Green, who answered other questions about the night in clipped sentences. “You’re going to boo someone that got elbowed in the eye and had blood running down your face? I could’ve had a concussion or anything. So if they’re going to be that nasty, I can be nasty, too. I’m assuming the cheers was because they know I’ll get fined. Great. I make $25 million a year. I should be just fine.”Green and Grizzlies fans were already on bad terms coming into the game. He had been ejected from Game 1 after a hard foul on Memphis forward Brandon Clarke. On Tuesday, Green returned to the game at the start of the second quarter with his right eye nearly swollen shut.All the while, Golden State was figuring out how to recover from a hot Grizzlies start and Payton’s injury.“It was like 8-0 at the time, so I was trying to get settled in the game,” Curry said. “That play happens. It pisses you off, you have a reaction, understand there’s 45 minutes left in the game. You’ve got to kind of settle back in emotionally. We did a really good job until the fourth quarter.”It was a marked change from Golden State’s demeanor following the Game 1 win, but that shift is typical in playoff series, particularly the closer they are to the finals.Curry’s signature emotion is happiness. Lately, as Golden State has advanced in the playoffs, as the games have become more crucial and challenging, those around him have seen more of that.“Just the simple phrase, ‘You got to love it’; heard him say that a few times,” Bruce Fraser, an assistant coach who works closely with Curry, said Tuesday morning. “You can feel his energy. He walks around with an energy around him. I know him so well it’s hard for me to describe what that is because I just feel it.”Golden State guard Klay Thompson. left, was riding high after beating Memphis in Game 1.Joe Rondone/USA Today Sports, via ReutersBeing able to prevent an emotionally taxing loss from changing that has been a part of Golden State’s success in the past.On Tuesday morning, Thompson spoke not just about his efforts to stay calm in exciting moments, but also about his improved ability to not worry too much in more negative moments. He said he loved to play in any game he could, given his two-year absence from the sport as he recovered from two leg injuries.He also spoke about his confidence that Golden State could handle anything, because in his years playing with Curry and Green, they have, he said, “been through everything.”He recalled a playoff series against the Grizzlies in 2015 and how aggressively that Memphis team played. Golden State also lost Game 2 of that series before winning it on the way to Thompson, Curry and Green’s first championship. That’s not to say the situations are identical. In 2015, Golden State was the top seed in the Western Conference, while Memphis was fifth. This season, the Grizzlies had the second-best record in the N.B.A., while Golden State was third.Those types of experiences, though, help keep emotions stable.After Tuesday’s game, Curry spoke with reporters before he even changed out of his game uniform. Still, he already seemed to be moving past the emotion of the game. He exhibited the cerebral quality that leads the rest of his team.“It’s in our DNA,” Curry said when asked how Golden State would recover from this loss. “We know what to do.” More

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    Grizzlies Deflate Timberwolves With Jaw-Dropping Playoff Comeback

    The Memphis Grizzlies were down by more than 20 points — twice — against the Timberwolves in Minnesota but won anyway. And it wasn’t because of their biggest star.MINNEAPOLIS — The job was almost finished, and Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane looked out across the court, flashed a triumphant smile and wiggled his eyebrows.The Grizzlies had overcome not one but two deficits of more than 20 points. They had fallen behind by 26 points early in the second quarter, pushed around by a punishing Timberwolves defense, but punched back and cut the deficit to 7 at halftime. A 15-0 run that helped them do it included three 3-pointers from Bane.But it didn’t stick.The Grizzlies trailed by 25 with 3:10 left in the third quarter, and Coach Taylor Jenkins screamed “one possession” through the deafening roar in the building. He reminded his team to focus on each possession instead of the daunting deficit.With each Grizzlies stop the arena got quieter. They outscored the Timberwolves, 50-16, over the rest of the game, again with Bane’s help from deep and an unyielding defensive effort that allowed only 12 fourth-quarter points.The Minnesota crowd filed out of the building, stunned by a result they half expected from years of Timberwolves futility. The Grizzlies love to boast when they’ve earned it, and Thursday night they certainly did.“I ain’t never been down 20 twice and won,” Bane said. “It was just a weird game. It was a weird game.”The attention that comes the Grizzlies’ way often focuses on Ja Morant, the effervescent 22-year-old point guard whose dunks seem to be aided by a pogo stick. But Morant has spent all season trying to shower more attention on the rest of his team.On Thursday night, the Grizzlies beat the Timberwolves, 104-95, to take a two-games-to-one lead in their best-of-seven first-round series in the Western Conference. It was a game that gave Morant more ammunition as he campaigned for his teammates. They won even though Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks were 11 of 38 from the field after starting.“They deserve a lot more respect and recognition for what they do for us on the floor,” Morant said of his teammates as he sat next to Tyus Jones, his backup. “Like you said, us three struggled, but that’s why we got this guy alongside of me and the rest of our teammates to be there to pick us up. That’s why we’re really the deepest team in the league and we’re so good.”This was not the first time the Grizzlies had proved their ability to succeed even when key players were struggling or absent.Morant missed 25 games of the regular season, and the Grizzlies lost only five of them. When the team sat four starters against the league-leading Phoenix Suns on April 1, Memphis won anyway.Bane didn’t play in that game against the Suns, but he has been a major reason for the Grizzlies’ success this season. He was drafted 30th overall in 2020 and has gone from being a role player in his rookie year to a starter this year — from averaging 9.2 points a game to 18.2 points a game this regular season.“Last year I kind of felt like I was learning all year long, trying to learn, absorb as much information as I can so I could apply it in years to come,” Bane said in an interview Thursday morning. “Obviously, I’m still learning. I’m a young player, but I have a different role so I’m being extremely aggressive and having fun.”Bane scored 17 points in the Grizzlies’ Game 1 loss to the Timberwolves and 16 in their Game 2 win. On Thursday he led all scorers with 26 points. Game 4 is Saturday.The series pits against each other two young teams who are short on playoff experience but brimming with confidence. The Grizzlies had the second-best record in the league this year. The Timberwolves used a late push to force their way into the playoffs.As soon as the Grizzlies lost Game 1, a memory of last season came in handy. They had defeated the Jazz in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series last year, then Utah won the next four games.Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke made several critical shots down the stretch as Memphis, somehow, took the lead late after being down by as many as 26 points.Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports, via ReutersWhen Morant was asked pregame if he would like to steal a win from the Timberwolves on their home court, he said, “I want to steal two.”When asked why he loved road games so much, Morant was equally succinct.“Sending their fans home mad,” he said.The Timberwolves fans booed Morant every time he touched the ball, and Minnesota’s defense prioritized stopping him. Relative to his usual performances, it did. Morant, who averaged 27.4 points a game in the regular season, scored just 16 on Thursday. But the win was enough for him. As time expired, Morant asked for the ball and threw it up into the rafters as the crowd, seeming more sad than mad, departed.Jones, whom Morant introduced as “Point God” after the game, scored 11 points with 4 assists and 5 rebounds.Brandon Clarke scored 20 points, and took the podium after Morant and Jones. As they crossed paths, Morant playfully chided him for hiding his jewelry under his shirt. Morant wanted him to shine.The early playoff baptism for this young Grizzlies team is likely to pay off as their careers progress.“This is the best player development you can get,” Memphis Coach Taylor Jenkins said. He added: “The mental focus that you’ve got to have. The attention to detail we pride ourselves on all season long. Game plan discipline, night in and night out. That’s all the work that our guys put in. When you get to this level and you’re playing high stakes game to game, ups and downs. Just staying even keeled throughout.”Bane is quite aware of how unusual his first two seasons in the N.B.A. have been. Not everyone comes into a young team where they can make an immediate impact and also go to the playoffs.“Some players go their whole career without ever making the playoffs,” Bane said Thursday morning. “And for me to be able to do it my first two years in the league, I don’t want anything else. I want to get to the playoffs every year.”A smile brightened his face as he said it and thought about such a future.In the shorter term, Bane is thinking bigger.“We want to make some noise in this postseason,” Bane said. “We want to make a run. It’s obviously exciting times, and we’re confident about where we’re at and what we’ve done, but there’s still a lot to be done.” More