The Golden State Warriors are back on the winners list with an ultra-important 123-109 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center on Christmas Day.
Both teams came to play as a series of technical fouls defined the re-ignintement of the teams’ growing rivalry. Playing for the first time since last season’s Western Conference Semifinals, the Warriors brought an edge scarcely seen in the first 33 games of the season.
Jordan Poole’s 32 points led the Golden State Warriors to a much needed 14-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies in an entertaining Christmas Day battle.
Golden State got off to a promising start in the opening quarter, winning the period 33-29 thanks to a 17-point explosion from Jordan Poole. Spurred by a personal one-on-one matchup with Dillon Brooks, and backed by some encouraging words from Stephen Curry himself, Poole was flying around off screens and shooting like his absent master.
Steve Kerr also got impressive minutes from a youthful unit that included Poole, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman, all of who played their role effectively. Anthony Lamb then delivered three second-quarter triples, indicative of the improved quality of Golden State’s younger/role players back on their home floor.
But the Warriors failed to close their excellent first half as an 11-point lead was unnecessarily trimmed to five in the final 30 seconds. Tyus Jones’ jumpshot was followed by a Poole turnover, then Klay Thompson fouled Jones on a three-point attempt. Poole’s first technical then allowed Jones to knock down all four free-throws and give Memphis some momentum from seemingly nowhere.
Thompson redeemed himself to a degree by making his first three shots in the third, having been 2-for-10 from the field in the first-half. The teams went back-and-forth and the Grizzlies cut the lead to three, before the Warriors made a game-decisive run led by…Ty Jerome. The 25-year-old on a two-way deal made six of his first seven shots, including three buckets in an 11-0 run that extended the lead to 14.
Poole was the main architect though, tallying 32 points by the end of the third as he went head-to-head with Grizzlies’ star Ja Morant. The fourth-year guard was then ejected early in the final period, leaving the Warriors a potentially uncomfortable nine-minute period despite a big lead.
But Poole had been ably supported all night, and Golden State weren’t about to let one of their best wins of the season fall by the wayside. The game was sealed with a few minutes remaining, allowing the Warriors’ veterans to let the Grizzlies’ confident youngsters know all about the result.
More technical fouls were assessed in a hostile contest that wasn’t helped by a host of controversial refereeing decisions. Fortunately for the Warriors, they created enough of a margin where the game wasn’t left to those with the whistles.
It may have been Golden State’s most complete performance of the season, particularly given the absence of Curry, Andrew Wiggins and even JaMychal Green. Poole had 32, Thompson added 24 points and nine rebounds, and Donte DiVincenzo had 19 to complete a productive three-guard starting combination.
Draymond Green did what he does best with 13 rebounds and 13 assists to go with some massive defensive plays. Jerome had 14 points and four rebounds off the bench, while Lamb finished with 11. In perhaps his best game of the season, Moody made a trio of double-digit bench scorers with ten points on 4-for-7 shooting.
Jonathan Kuminga had seven points, four rebounds, three assists and was second in plus-minus behind Jerome at +21. Despite not even attempting a shot after his 30-piece against the Brooklyn Nets, the coaching staff would have loved what they saw from James Wiseman in what was easily the best defensive and rebounding stint of his developing career.
Speaking of defense, the Warriors kept Memphis to 41.5% from the field and just 23.1% from three-point range. Only Morant (36 points, seven rebounds, eight assists) got off the leash, with Desmond Bane struggling and Jaren Jackson Jr. in major foul trouble the entire game.
After a tumultuous road-trip where they went 1-5, the franchise and fans deserved a positive outing where everyone contributed effectively. Golden State stay in touch at 16-18 on the season, and they’ll be hoping to build on the momentum when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.