Score of Grizzlies vs. Warriors takeaways: Ja Morant erupts with 47 points to help Memphis tie the series in Game 2

The Memphis Grizzlies tied their second-round series with the Golden State Warriors at one game apiece with a 106-101 victory in Game 2 on Tuesday. Morant led all scorers with a playoff career-high 47 points, joining LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only players in history to record multiple 45-point playoff games before age 23. according to ESPN statistics.

Stephen Curry led the way for Golden State with 27 points on a night in which the Memphis defense limited the Warriors to just 18.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. Jordan Poole added 20 points in the loss. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.

Here are three takeaways from Memphis’ series-tying victory.

1. Yes-dropper

Ian Eagle has delivered just about every Ja pun you can think of during this series, so we might as well continue here. Morant is amazing. As mentioned above, his 47 points puts him on a list with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the only players in history to record multiple 45-point playoff games before the age of 23.

Morant took a break early on when Gary Payton II was lost for the game following a Flagrant 2 foul courtesy of Dillon Brooks, who was ejected. Payton — who Steve Kerr reported after the game has a fractured elbow, which is terrible news, is a threat on the ball, and without him, Morant had favorable matchups all night. He made the most of it, breaking through the paint and finishing off in typical acrobatic, powerful form of his.

Morant, who brought the Grizzlies home with 18 points in the fourth quarter, was ultra-aggressive, making 31 shots, 12 of them from beyond the arc. The Warriors sank away from him at the top, and he went into 3-pointers all night, making five of them. If he starts making that shot consistently, which, with that kind of space, isn’t out of the question, he’ll be officially undefendable. He may already be.

2. Brick Brothers

Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 5-for-23 from 3 and 16-for-44 overall. Most of them were attractive, some completely open. Curry had an open look late in the game that missed everything, and even one of his 3-pointers, a straight shot from the top of the key, was a backboard brick that went in by chance.

This continues to be a perplexing season for Curry, who is now 27-for-70 from deep in the playoffs (38 percent). That’s not a bad number, unless you’re Curry, who this season hasn’t been anything like the shooter he has been throughout his career. He is erratic from game to game and very rarely makes crazy shots. You can tell how locked in a shooter is by his misses: are they short or long, a better sign, or do they miss left and right? — and Curry, who is 8-for-23 since deep in the first few games of this series, has missed worse this season than at any time he can remember.

Thompson, meanwhile, was 2-for-12 from deep Tuesday and is 5-for-22 in the series. His case is less suspicious; he still has less than four months left of his return after two years off with a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles. Still, he needs to control some of his unaware ways, particularly dribbling, which is not his strong suit. He tried too hard to get into a rhythm Tuesday and ended up throwing the Warriors into a deeper hole.

There will be a lot of talk about the Warriors’ 18 turnovers in Game 2 and their inability, or unwillingness, to value the ball in general, but this team has always been reckless/sloppy/downright stupid on the ball. The difference now is that they can’t constantly shoot their way out of trouble, as Curry and Thompson just aren’t the shooters they used to be, or at least they haven’t been this season.

3. The Payton news is a huge bummer

Finding out that Payton has a fractured elbow is a real blow to the stomach. The guy bounced forever trying to find a steady job in the NBA, and not only did he find one with the Warriors, he started the first two games of this series and was an integral component of a title contender. He changes the look of this series in a big way. Payton was Morant’s number one defender. If the Warriors made it to the conference finals and faced the Suns, you would have seen a lot of Payton in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. This was his moment.

And Dillon Brooks took it from him. Steve Kerr called it foul play, and I agree. No one is saying that Brooks was trying to hurt Payton, but he made a reckless play on a guy who was in the air with the full knowledge that he was putting Payton in a very vulnerable position. That’s dirty.

All we can hope for Payton is that he bounces back from this and doesn’t affect his free agency this summer. This is not a guy who has made tens of millions of dollars. Once again, this is the first stable job in the NBA that he has had. This summer he was going to be ready to sign the first financial security contract of his life. Hopefully he’ll still get the payday he’s earned, but he just doesn’t know the seriousness right now.

As for the Warriors, losing Payton is a huge success. His defense, cutting and finishing and overall energy is a big part of what the Warriors do. Hopefully, Andre Iguodala can return to take on some of those top perimeter assignments, but there’s no replacement for Payton and what he brought to the table at both ends. There is simply no way around that.

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