SAN FRANCISCO — After the Memphis Grizzlies pulled out of the playoffs with a 110-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of their conference semifinal series, Memphis forward Dillon Brooks said that the Grizzlies were hot on the trail of the Warriors.
“We’re young and they’re getting old,” Brooks said. “They know we’re going to come every year.”
Brooks, 26, is the oldest of the Grizzlies’ eight leading scorers this season, in which the upstart Memphis team won 56 games and finished as the second seed in the West.
After seven consecutive playoff appearances during the 2010s with their “Grit ‘n’ Grind” team, the Grizzlies began to rebuild in 2018 around a younger core. In the past four drafts, Memphis has added Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke to a roster that included Brooks.
The Grizzlies lost third-year star point guard Ja Morant after their Game 3 loss to the Warriors in San Francisco in which Morant suffered a bone bruise in his right knee. The Grizzlies responded valiantly, leading the Warriors at Chase Center for most of Game 4, then beating them in Game 5 in Memphis, when they led by 55 points and won by 39.
“One hundred percent,” Brooks said when asked if Morant’s presence for the duration of the series could have changed the outcome of Game 4 or 6. “Ja is one of the best point guards in this game. league – you know – obviously that would change, but we made do with what we had.”
On Friday, Memphis battled Golden State neck and neck until the final minutes of the game, when a late shooting surge from the Warriors propelled them to the 14-point victory.
“It’s a good motivation, a good learning curve, playing against two of the best shooters in history,” Brooks said. “Going against them was an incredible feeling. It’s important for us, and we’re going to take that through the summer and be ready to do it again.”
Brooks, who hit Airborne Warriors guard Gary Payton II en route to the basket in the opening minutes of Game 2, became an instant villain in the Bay Area. Payton suffered a broken left elbow on the play, while Brooks was flagged for Flag 2, ejected from the game and then suspended for Game 3 in San Francisco. When he returned to action, Brooks was booed heartily by the Chase Center crowd every time he touched the ball.
Despite the commotion, which continued throughout Game 6 in which Brooks and Warriors goaltender Klay Thompson constantly bit each other, Brooks and his Grizzlies teammates congratulated the victorious Warriors after the final buzzer. After the game, Warriors guard Stephen Curry praised the Grizzlies’ young talent and ability to weather the seasons to come.
“I have a lot of respect for each guy on the team in terms of how they’re built as a group, the individual talent,” Curry said. “They have a lot of energy, a lot of potential in terms of winning at the highest level. They were the highest seed for a reason. They had an incredible regular season and dominated throughout those 82 games. For us to be able to walk out of the show with a W, like there’s definitely respect. There’s definitely an understanding that they made us better; I’m sure we made them better.
Curry and Morant established a society of mutual admiration over the course of the series, with Curry praising Morant’s maturity after Game 1 in Memphis. After the game, Morant tweeted that the Warriors were his “favorite matchup.” He said, “looking forward to more than 30 battles,” referring to Curry’s jersey number.
“His numbers are crazy,” Curry said. “The sky’s the limit. Like I said, they’re going to be here for a long time, fighting for Western Conference prowess. So we’re going to take advantage of that and keep pushing towards our goal, but you have to understand that. they’re going to be around for the long haul, and that’s a problem. So definitely an amazing game, fun, entertaining, top basketball, all the antics and pettiness and stuff, I love it all.