SAN FRANCISCO – Klay Thompson shuffled over a sliding Dillon Brooks as he laid on the floor after Thompson drained a 3-pointer. The Warriors star then egged the fans and received a standing ovation from the Chase Center crowd after receiving a technical foul for his celebration over Brooks.
It was a special Christmas Day indeed for the Warriors, who dealt the Memphis Grizzlies a 123-109 loss on national television.
Sunday was the latest chapter in the budding rivalry between these two Western Conference foes. The two met in the play-in tournament in 2021, with Morant’s squad sending Curry & Co. home. The Warriors got their revenge in a feisty Western Conference semifinals in the spring.
But less than a week after Morant told ESPN there was no one in the West that he feared, the Warriors handed it to the Grizzlies.
The Warriors were powered by a 32-point night from Jordan Poole, who received his first career ejection in the fourth, as well as a 23-point showing by Thompson.
The Warriors’ Christmas Day matchup against the Grizzlies Sunday didn’t disappoint. It was chalked full of boisterous celebrations, even as the Warriors played without four players, including two starters.
There was concern as to how the Warriors could replace Stephen Curry’s scoring and gravitational pull as well as Andrew Wiggins’ defensive prowess against the athletic and physical Grizzlies who are near healthy with Desmond Bane playing his second straight game after missing 17 contests with a sprained big toe. But the Warriors, coming off back-to-back 30-plus-point losses, responded big with a win over one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies opened the game with a statement – Ja Morant feeding a soaring Jaren Jackson Jr. for a thunderous alley-oop after tip-off. But the Warriors quickly responded, gaining the lead.
Poole scored 17 of his team-high 32 points in the opening quarter, fueling a hot start by the reigning champions who limped into this homestand shorthanded and in a fragile mental state, according to Draymond Green.
Golden State built off its four-point lead at the end of the first quarter, jumping out with a 19-8 run to go ahead by 15 points just past the midway point of the second.
But the Grizzlies clawed their way back. Tyus Jones scored six points – including four off free throws – over the final 27 seconds of the half to pull the Grizzlies within five at the break.
The Grizzlies started to fall apart in the third. At one point, the Warriors scored 11 unanswered points. A Jordan Poole 16-foot basket made it 91-77, forcing Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins to call a timeout. Poole celebrated by running near the sidelines, yelling and high fiving fans.
The Grizzlies never recovered.
Poole was tossed at the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter after picking up his second technical foul of the game. But his absence didn’t matter. The Warriors received contributions from up-and-down the roster. Six Golden State players finished in double figures scoring. Donte DiVincenzo had 19 points including five 3s. Draymond Green contributed 13 assists and 13 rebounds.
Ty Jerome scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, Morant led the Grizzlies with 36 points on 15 of 29 shooting. He also had eight assists and seven rebounds. But no one else on the Grizzlies really stepped up to help him, with Brooks and Tyus Jones each tallying 13 points as their next-highest contributor.
Golden State is looking to regain its footing heading into the new year with an eight-game homestand after a nightmare 1-6 road trip. Sunday’s win was a step in the right direction.
The Western Conference remains crowded, with 5 ½ games separating first and 11th, where Golden State sits.
The Warriors improved to 12-2 at home and 16-18 on the season. They’ll have one day off before returning to Chase Center Tuesday to host the 9-24 Charlotte Hornets.
Andrew Wiggins missed his 10th consecutive game with a strained thigh muscle suffered earlier this month.
Wiggins hasn’t played since Dec. 14 when he dropped a season-high 36 points on 14 of 19 shooting, including eight 3s. At the time, Wiggins said his 3-point shot never felt better, but he hasn’t played since.
The Warriors are still targeting Wiggins to return during this eight-game homestand, though Kerr noted his injury has lingered longer than expected. Warriors director of sports medicine and performance Dr. Rick Celebrini cautioned against bringing Wiggins back too soon.
“With groin injuries, you have to be careful,” Kerr said pregame. “We are just trying to be cautious and give him an extra day or a couple of days, whatever it’s going to take to get him back. Hopefully he’ll play soon, but I can’t tell exactly when that is.”
One day after the Warriors confirmed that Curry’s shoulder injury will keep him out for at least two more weeks, the guard expressed hope that he could come back as soon as the two weeks are up — even if he hasn’t started taking contact yet.
“Hopefully, the back end goes a lot faster than the front end,” Curry said in a second quarter interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters.
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