How Ja Morant’s Incredible Game 2 Against Warriors Changes Series

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

After the Warriors stole Game 1 in Memphis, things were looking rocky for the Grizzlies. And just three minutes into Game 2, the Grizzlies’ defensive menace Dillon Brooks was ejected, making things worse for Memphis. It looked like a real possibility that Golden State could return home up 2-0.

And then Ja Morant happened.

The NBA’s 2022 Most Improved Player dropped 47 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in a 106-101 win. Swinging the momentum back into Memphis’ favor heading into Game 3, Ja showed he can do it all.

He also showed why Golden State could be in trouble.

Ja Morant carried the Memphis Grizzlies to victory largely by way of his scoring. Morant set the high-water mark for scoring so far this postseason and did so on impressive efficiency. Though he shot only 48% from the field, Morant managed to hit at a 41.7% clip from three.

LATEST NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Are Golden State Warriors Too Experienced For Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies To Handle?

What makes Morant special is the versatility with which he can score, though he lacks an outside shot. Ja’s quickness gets defenders on their heels as he drives, and when off-balance the defense has no hope of stopping his shot.

Especially because Morant’s shot – whether it a floater, runner, lay-up, or dunk, can come at any moment after his launch. It’s impossible for a defender to time their jump.

When watching the above clips, note the insane variety in the shots. He jumps from practically the same spot each time, but we see hanging finishes, quick floaters, and even dunks. If the defender jumps early, it’s a late finish. Meanwhile, if the defender jumps late, it’s a quick floater. And if the defender doesn’t jump – it’s a dunk.

Guarding these shots from Morant is tough enough – it reaches the level of impossible when he’s also hitting from three.

Morant is almost a non-shooter – not quite to the level of a Ben Simmons – but to a surprising extent for a scorer of his talents. He still will take threes, since defenders give him enough space to line up the laces before he shoots. But typically, a Ja Morant three is a victory for his defender.

LATEST NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Are Golden State Warriors Too Experienced For Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies To Handle?

But it wasn’t in game 2. Morant shot 5 of 12 – 15 points in 12 tries, which was better efficiency than even his two-point tries. Defenders simply can’t win when Morant is shooting like this.

If Morant can manage to shoot even close to that from deep for the rest of the series, the Warriors will be in trouble.

It’s important to note a key factor in Morant’s scoring explosion – the injury to the Warriors’ preferred Morant-defender, Gary Payton II. The play that resulted in Dillon Brooks’ ejection also caused a likely season-ending injury for Payton. Without him, Golden State didn’t have a clear answer ready for Morant.

Whether we see Kuminga step up to guard Morant, or even a larger dose of Draymond, the Warriors are unfortunately under-staffed for the task after the injury.

LATEST NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Are Golden State Warriors Too Experienced For Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies To Handle?

The Warriors’ best solution likely exists on the other end of the floor – their offense. The Warriors have built their dynasty around ball-movement and player-movement, confusing the defense by attacking from all sides. They may need to consider abandoning that for this series.

For all Ja Morant’s offensive talent, he is a very poor defender. Golden State, equipped with plenty of elite scoring guards, should attack Morant at every opportunity.

Not only would Morant allow the Warriors’ guards to score with relative ease, as he did with Patrick Beverley last series – the move would help stifle Morant’s offense.

LATEST NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS COVERAGE: Are Golden State Warriors Too Experienced For Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies To Handle?

Keeping him in the action makes him less able to leak out in transition, where he does much of his damage. In addition, going at Morant will simply tire him out – a tired Morant is less likely to detonate on your defense than a Morant that hides in the corner on defense.

The Golden State Warriors still should be favorites this series, but Ja Morant showed the roadmap to a Memphis win. Ja Morant is simply unstoppable, and if he can continue to be the scorer he was in Game 2, he could ensure a long series for the Warriors.