Key supporting cast in semi-final battle between Ja-Steph
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Klay Thompson savored the moment as he spent a few minutes on the court after a rollercoaster of emotions in the final minute.
He hit the game-winning 3-pointer – only to miss two free throws before coming back on defense to force Ja Morant to miss a layup, giving Golden State a 117-116 victory. It’s not a championship, but it was a huge win for the Warriors and even more so for Thompson due to the injuries he’s had over the past two years.
“Having to watch the last two years, just soaking it all up and internalizing the whole atmosphere and just appreciating where I’m at,” Thompson said.
Game 1 showed that whoever wins the 1-on-1 battle between Morant of Memphis and Stephen Curry of the Warriors doesn’t mean his team will win the game or the series. Supporting casts are crucial at this point in the playoffs.
Thompson was just 3 of 10 from outside the arc and finished with 15 points. Fortunately, Jordan Poole helped the Golden State bench outplay Memphis reserves 47-30. Poole had playoff career highs with 31 points and eight rebounds, and he also tied his playoff career high with nine assists.
“He was brilliant,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
Jaren Jackson Jr. nearly matched Morant’s 34 points with a playoff career-high 33 points in his second straight double-double. Jackson also matched his season high with six 3-pointers.
When the fourth overall pick in 2018 plays like that, Grizzlies teammate Kyle Anderson said there aren’t many teams that can beat them.
“We need him on the floor,” Anderson said of Jackson on Monday. ” It’s hard. We need that kind of performance from him.
Andrew Wiggins also added 17 for Golden State. Brandon Clarke scored in double figures each of the first seven games coming off the bench for Memphis, and Grizzlies reserve De’Anthony Melton added 14 against the Warriors after not playing the last two games of the first round.
In the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo got more help from his Bucks teammates than Jayson Tatum from the rest of the Celtics.
Antetokounmpo had a triple-double leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a road win to open their Eastern Conference semifinal with Boston. With Khris Middleton still out with a knee injury, Bobby Portis scored 15 points and 11 rebounds to go along with Jrue Holiday’s double-double.
Jayson Tatum received little help from his Celtics teammates, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart going 7-for-24.
“I have all the faith in the world in JB,” Tatum said. “No one should bow their heads. Just prepare for the next one.
BUCKS AT CELTICS
Milwaukee leads 1-0. Game 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
NEED TO KNOW: The defending NBA champion Bucks started slow but forced their will on the Celtics in the second half of their 101-89 Game 1 win. Antetokounmpo shot 9 for 25 from the field but still posted his second career playoff triple-double (24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists). The Celtics are a playoff low of 33% (28 of 84) with just 21 assists and a playoff high of 18 turnovers.
KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Celtics are adapting to pressure from the Bucks. Milwaukee picked Boston ball handlers all over the court at various times, forcing the Celtics to accelerate into some shaky half-court possessions. Boston coach Ime Udoka said a change in approach was key to unleashing their offensive flow: “You want to mix things up and sometimes and attack from that when they press.”
INJURY WATCH: Udoka said Smart was questionable for Game 2 facing a fair amount of pain from a bruised thigh injury in Game 1. He was hit twice in the same spot and also left just before halftime with a sting in the right shoulder. “He’s a badass who will try to play through things,” Udoka said. … Milwaukee goaltender George Hill was on the field for Monday’s practice, doing individual work, but coach Mike Budenholzer said he will sit out with abdominal strain that has kept Hill from participating in any the Chicago series.
THE PRESSURE IS ON: Tatum and Brown. Boston’s star duo combined to go 10 of 31 from the field. Tatum had 21 points, but Brown finished with just 12, going 3 of 9 from the 3-point line with seven turnovers. The Celtics’ offense is going as it is, and another lackluster performance from the tandem would almost certainly lead to a 0-2 deficit.
WARRIORS AT GRIZZLIES
Golden State leads 1-0. Game 2, 9:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
— NEED TO KNOW: The Warriors outshot the NBA’s best rebounding team 51-47 and tied the Grizzlies on offensive glass with 16 — well above Golden State’s regular-season average of 9.8 and 8.5 in the playoffs. It helped the Warriors beat Memphis 26-24 on second chance points.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Draymond Green. He was ejected from Game 1 at the end of the first half for punching Brandon Clarke in the face with his right hand, grabbing the Grizzlies forward’s jersey with his left and pulling Clarke downfield. Green said on his podcast that he thought the NBA could cut the Flagrant 2 but didn’t. That leaves Green two points away from a one-game ban.
“I will never change the way I play basketball,” Green said. “It got me here. It got me three championships, four All-Stars, Defensive Player of the Year. I will not change now.
– INJURY WATCH: Bane received treatment during the second half on the bench for what Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins called “general pain”. Jenkins said Bane was fine, just sore like most Grizzlies. Grizzlies center Steven Adams has not been cleared of health and safety protocols and remains day-to-day.
— THE PRESSURE IS ON: Memphis. The Grizzlies have already lost home court advantage. Dropping Game 2 means going to San Francisco with being swept by the Warriors, a much bigger possibility for one of the NBA’s youngest teams playing on its biggest stage yet.
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.
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