It wasn’t pretty, but the Golden State Warriors are back in the Western Conference finals.
The Warriors eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their second-round series. They will face the winner of Game 7 between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, scheduled for Sunday.
The win saves the Warriors from having to even think about the prospect of another blown 3-1 lead, but they certainly tempted fate with how they played Friday. Up until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, it was a brutal offensive game for just about every Warrior not named Klay Thompson, who finished with 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting and eight rebounds.
In total, the Warriors finished with 17 turnovers, one game after posting 22 turnovers in Game 5. Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole, usually the engines that drive the Warriors’ offense, combined to shoot 14 of 42 from the field.
A 70-44 rebounding margin, primarily driven by Kevon Looney’s 22 boards, fortunately provided plenty of margin for error.
The Warriors finally found their form after falling behind 89-87 with less than seven minutes remaining. From there, the Warriors reeled off an 18-3 run. Andrew Wiggins got it started with a game-changing stretch in which he made a 3-pointer, got a steal off Dillon Brooks, made a dunk, then got another stop on Brooks that led to a Curry transition 3-pointer.
Klay Thompson turns in throwback performance
It has been 1,065 days since Klay Thompson sustained his first of two season-ruining injuries and 1,089 days since the Warriors played in a Western Conference finals.
Those facts are very much related.
Game 6 Klay came back with a vengeance on Friday, carrying the team’s offense in the first half and delivering what looked like the dagger in the fourth quarter. An energized Thompson threw up six fingers after that shot, very much knowing what he was delivering for his team.
It’s hard not to feel good for Thompson, who seemed like he would never find his All-Star form again at times, as he missed two full NBA seasons and slowly made his way back this season.
Grizzlies’ promising season comes to frustrating end
The Warriors were fortunate to be facing a Grizzlies team missing All-Star point guard Ja Morant, who missed the final three games of the postseason with a bone bruise in his knee. However, the Grizzlies still presented a respectable challenge, as they had during the regular season when Morant was hurt.
Brooks did his best to step up with 30 points on 11-of-28 shooting, though the Grizzlies felt Morant’s absence through replacement starter Tyus Jones’ 2-of-12 night from the field.
The loss ends a season that held so much promise for the Grizzlies, though there figures to be even more promise next season. The team still has one of the best young cores in the NBA, if not the best, with Morant (22 years old), Brooks (26), Desmond Bane (23) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (22), and there is plenty more room for them to grow together.