NBA

Ja Morant accepts responsibility after Grizzlies' Game 1 loss against Warriors

By Sports Desk May 02, 2022

Ja Morant refused to give any credit to the Golden State Warriors defense after missing the potential game-winning layup in the Memphis Grizzlies 117-116 Game 1 loss.

Morant finished with 34 points on 14-of-31 shooting, while also adding nine rebounds and 10 assists, but clanked his layup hard off the backboard as time expired under a good contest from Klay Thompson.

Jordan Poole was the star of the show for the Warriors, coming off the bench to score 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with eight rebounds and nine assists, stepping up to make up for Thompson's six-of-19 performance from the field.

Speaking with post-game media, Morant opted to not give any credit to Thompson's defense when prompted multiple times.

"It was the same message as every time we're in the situation – I just missed a layup," the All-Star said. 

When pressed on if Thompson's defense had any impact, Morant repeated his statement: "Nah, I just missed a layup."

Instead, Morant said where his side lost the contest was in the hustle categories that the Grizzlies usually excel in.

"We gave up too many second-chance points, we gave up [too many] fast-break points," he said. "That's definitely not what we want to be giving up, and it played a factor in this game.

"I feel like that's kind of where we messed up. We were running to the rim on their shots, and there were some long rebounds, 50-50 balls, you know we've got to come up with those against this team. We can't allow them second chances, or open looks, and they made us pay for it.

"We came out and fought – we had a lead, then went down, then got the lead back. Klay hit a big-time three, and I missed a layup. 

"Despite all that, we gave up 26 second-chance points and 18 fast-break points, and we lost by one. 

"It's nothing to hang our heads about – but obviously we've got to correct those things."

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins did not want to let Jaren Jackson Jr's night go unnoticed either, as he posted a playoff career-high 33 points as the Defensive Player of the Year candidate sank six-of-nine three-pointers.

"[Morant and Jackson] were big for us tonight," Taylor said. "I thought as [the Warriors] changed their line-ups, we started utilising 'JJ' more in ball-screens – Ja was doing a great job finding him, and JJ capitalised. 

"It's going to be a great film to go back and watch to see where we were successful, and see where we weren't. But those two guys were bright spots for sure."

When asked about the plan on the last possession, Jenkins was adamant that he trusts his best player to decide the game.

"[We were looking for] Ja to go make a play," he said. "He had a great look, it just didn't happen to go in."

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    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

    The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

    As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

    Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

    "Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

    "If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

    "So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

    "Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

    Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

    "He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

    "You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

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