SAN FRANCISCO — Champions have multiple lives. Even when they’re old and not as sharp, they know how to survive as much as win.
The Golden State Warriors winning 101-98 on Monday night at Chase Center was about survival. Holding on against a younger Memphis Grizzlies team slowing the tempo without injured All-Star point guard Ja Morant. Yet the Warriors, who didn’t lead until 45.7 seconds remaining, showed their experience matching it with execution.
Now they’re in another familiar spot trying to close a team out while leading the series 3-1. Game 5 on Wednesday (8:30 p.m., TNT) won’t be easy either but after winning 20 playoff series since 2013, the Warriors know what awaits them at FedExForum.
“Wednesday’s going to be the hardest one yet,” guard Klay Thompson said. “It always is. The closeout.”
It might not get as ugly as it did Monday. The Warriors missed their first 15 3-point attempts. Thompson missed all seven of his and shot 6-for-20 overall. Otto Porter Jr. made as many 3-pointers as Stephen Curry (four).
The Warriors didn’t make a field goal for the final 3:25 of regulation. Yet, they pushed past a valiant Grizzlies team that exhausted their clip but misfired on their final bullets. The Warriors outscored them 11-5 in the final 2:32 where Curry and Jordan Poole led a free-throw parade and Dillon Brooks’ last-second 3-pointer was only meaningful to shrink the final margin.
For Mike Brown, coaching in place of Steve Kerr who tested positive for COVID-19, it was simple. The Warriors had Thompson, Curry and Draymond Green, a trio used to finishing games. Add in Poole’s rising profile and there’s trust they’ll find a way even when the Grizzlies had them on the ropes.
“A lot of it has to do with the playoff experience that these guys have but their talent and IQ, in my opinion, is second-to-none,” Brown said.
That’s been the difference this series. The Grizzlies are learning how to manage the playoff ebb and flow. With Morant’s availability for Game 5 up in the air, they’re down their biggest weapon
The Warriors? They know the course and have mastered it. Even if Game 5 brings a fiery road crowd and a desperate opponent, it’s a challenge they’re well versed in.
After handling a close Game 4, there’s more confidence in what they know as much as what they have on the court. The Grizzlies are still learning that. Meanwhile, the Warriors are on the verge of a sixth conference finals trip in eight years.
“We know how to pull off games like this, whether it happens or not. It’s just about how you approach it and we made that happen,” Curry said.
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