Draymond lights firecracker to spark Warriors' blowout of Grizzlies


Draymond lights firecracker to spark Warriors’ blowout of Grizzlies originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – With the Warriors stepping deeply into another dreary Chase Center performance against an undermanned opponent Wednesday night, Draymond Green decided to inject some life into the room.

He grabbed a firecracker – not a grenade, as was the case earlier this season – lit it and tossed it into the festivities, touching off a brief quarrel.

What immediately followed was predictable, the Warriors and Grizzlies trickling into a midcourt standoff quickly quelled by officials and security intervention. The extent of the tangible damage was that Green and Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, who engaged a brief scuffle during the kerfuffle, were assessed double technical fouls.

From that moment, the Warriors played with genuine conviction. They tightened the defense and outscored Memphis 19-10 over the final six minutes of the half – including a 10-0 burst over the final 1:54 – and rode that jolt of energy to a 137-116 victory.

“It kind of woke our team up,” Green said.

“Those last few minutes in the second quarter were really key, just to give us some momentum and a lead at halftime,” coach Steve Kerr said.

After trading leads several times through the first 18 minutes, the Warriors outscored the Grizzlies 42-17 during an 11-minute stretch spanning the second and third quarters.

Green’s wake-up call was precisely what the Warriors needed. They summoned the defensive disposition required to smash a plucky team missing two starters and three additional rotation players.

The temperature the building began to rise shortly after Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama slipped an elbow into the chest of Green under the basket. Green pushed back and then briefly grabbed Aldama’s jersey.

Seconds later, with the Warriors up 49-47, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins called timeout and joined Aldama in practically sprinting over to officials. Green noticed it and, rather than going to the Golden State bench, raced over to join the conversation. Which led to several members of each team walking over, with Bane’s arrival and a chest-to-chest meeting with Draymond. Both Jenkins and Warriors forward Gary Payton II stumbled harmlessly onto the floor before order was restored.

Firecracker tossed – as if it should be needed against a team that has a contentious history with the Warriors.

The Grizzlies (22-47) were without stars Ja Morant and Marcus Smart, as well as Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose and Brandon Clarke. They’ve been shorthanded most of the season, but that did not stop them from coming into Chase and going after the Warriors.

“It’s always been very competitive,” Kerr said. “They’re just tough. Physically tough. They never back down. When we play them, there’s usually some kind of dust-up.”

This latest dust-up led to a closing run that gave the Warriors a 10-point halftime lead (68-58) that grew to 25 (89-64) in the first four minutes of the second half. They had the rout they should have had from the jump.

The Warriors turned this into a runaway by flashing the defensive disposition that was at the heart of their February revival, which led them to reasonably believe they could rise from 10th place to sixth in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.

Golden State’s defense forced three turnovers in the final two minutes of the second quarter, during which Memphis shot 37.5 percent, and two more in the first two minutes of the second.

The absence of that defensive disposition largely explains how the Warriors have lost four of their last seven games, with three of the losses to teams below .500 or missing multiple starters.

That defensive disposition has been missing for most of March, leaving them with only the faintest hope of avoiding the NBA play-in tournament.

Maybe, maybe, Draymond helped them find it on this night.

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