SAN FRANCISCO — Once the clock stopped, Stephen Curry picked up the basketball, shook his right fist and ran around the court.
He finally felt some relief after the Golden State Warriors had absorbed numerous challenges Monday, including an unexpected coaching change. But after Draymond Green made a key block at the top of the key, Green roared in excitement toward the courtside fans. Curry followed suit. Then, the two Warriors teammates pointed at each other.
The Warriors escaped with a 101-98 Game 4 win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday to grab a 3-1 series lead. The Warriors can close out the series in Game 5 on Wednesday in Memphis (9:30 ET, TNT).
Here are the five takeaways from a memorable Game 4.
1. Mike Brown handled a familiar (albeit unexpected) role
The day started with Mike Brown wearing two coaching responsibilities. Just as he had for the past six years, he assumed his role as the Warriors’ lead assistant coach. He also officially became the Sacramento Kings’ coach, a role he will start once the Warriors’ playoff run ends.
As the day continued, Brown would learn that Golden State coach Steve Kerr had tested positive for COVID-19, and that he would have to take the reins for Game 4 Monday night. Brown had no forewarning. Kerr attended morning shootaround. Wearing a mask and speaking with a raspy voice during his media availability, Kerr tested later in the day after feeling symptomatic. Brown then learned about his new assignment after arriving at the arena at about 5:15 p.m. PT, about 105 minutes before tipoff.
“To have that kind of thrown at you, you’ve got to switch gears because I know what my responsibilities are going in as Mike Brown the assistant coach, and it changes,” Brown said. “Now you have to manage everything and not necessarily manage the specific things that you are asked to do before game time. So I had to change hats quickly.”
Brown felt prepared. He coached the Warriors to a 11-0 playoff record in 2017 while Kerr dealt with complications from back surgery. As Kerr’s lead assistant, Brown monitors the players’ minutes and takes meticulous notes for game prep. And he leaned on both the rest of the Warriors’ coaching staff, Green and Andre Iguodala for additional coaching help.
“Obviously there’s butterflies, because again you’re going into the game with a certain mindset and it’s a big game,” Brown said. “Every game that we play at this point in the year, it’s huge.”
Will Brown be sitting in the same chair for Game 5? It seems likely. To clear protocols, the NBA requires players and coaches that test positive for COVID-19 to produce two consecutive negative tests taken within at least 24 hours of each other. That leaves Kerr with a very tight window to return.
As for his future coaching gig, Brown politely declined to talk in depth out of respect for his current job with the Warriors.
After being part of two of the Warriors’ three NBA title runs, Brown will be tasked with leading the Kings to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. After his three other coaching gigs with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-10 and 2013-14) and Los Angeles Lakers (2011-12), Brown is eager to tackle his next challenge. He plans to install his familiar defensive philosophies. He hopes to incorporate some of the Warriors’ concepts of ball-movement and collaboration. And he will try to connect with an organization that has had 11 different head coaches since last making the playoffs.
2. Golden State grinds it out
The Warriors missed their first 15 3-point attempts Monday night. They committed 11 turnovers in the first half. And although the Grizzlies had their own issues playing without point guard Ja Morant, their offensive miscues had more to do with their own sluggishness than the Warriors’ defense.
“That’s playoff basketball,” Brown said. “Sometimes it’s grimy. Sometimes it’s gritty.”
But the Warriors are experienced and resilient.
By crunchtime, Curry looked like his normal self. Despite shooting 10-of-25 from the field and 4-of-14 from deep, Curry finished with 32 points, boosted by sinking 8-of-9 free-throw attempts.
Curry tied the game at 90 after hitting a fall-away baseline jumper with 3:25 left. He gave the Warriors a 94-93 lead with 45.7 seconds left — their first lead of the night — after sinking a pair of free throws. He then made six more free throws in the final 25.9 seconds.
“He has that mindset where he is the best shooter of all time and it just takes one good look at the rim or free-throw line,” Brown said, “When that happens, the floodgates open.”
The Warriors’ win went beyond Curry making clutch shots.
one more pic.twitter.com/xoppORfaJ9
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 10, 2022
Green blocked Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 3-point attempt at the top of the key while the Warriors clung to a 98-95 lead with 19.5 seconds remaining. Andrew Wiggins was the lone Golden State player to shoot above 50% (17 points on 7-of-13 shooting) and also grabbed 10 rebounds. Green, Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr. and Kevon Looney all provided hustle plays.
That all became enough for the Warriors to overcome a poor shooting night from both Klay Thompson (6-of-20 overall, 0-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Poole (4-of-12, 0-of-3 from 3).
“If it’s a one- or two-possession game down the stretch, whether you’re down or up, you feel pretty confident,” Brown said. “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.”
3. Grizzlies struggle without Morant
Memphis may have sensed it would be a difficult night as soon as lineup introductions started.
Leading scorer Ja Morant was in street clothes, missing Game 4 (and possibly beyond) because of right knee soreness. Warriors fans showered Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks with boos as he was about to play for the first time since serving a one-game suspension in Game 3.
Initially, the Grizzlies tapped into the same formula that ensured a 20-5 regular-season record without Morant. Tyus Jones started in his place. Steven Adams assumed his role at the center spot to minimize the Warriors’ paint points. After Desmond Bane nailed a 32-footer at the end of the third quarter, the Grizzlies nursed a 69-62 lead and showed they just might get out of San Francisco with a split.
But they couldn’t sustain that effort in the fourth quarter. And that’s when they missed Morant.
Brooks scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting after going a combined 3-of-16 in Games 1 and 2. Jenkins still stuck with Brooks in crunch time, though, because of his eight assists.
“He forced a couple; trying to get his groove back,” Jenkins said. “Obviously he’s been off for a couple of days. But when he was playing with force under control, I loved the playmaking that he had.”
The Grizzlies allowed the Warriors to shoot 10-of-17 from the field and 4-of-8 from deep in the final period. They committed 10 personal fouls. And the Warriors outrebounded the Grizzlies, 8-4.
“I feel like their pressure kind of sped us up. We let their pressure kind of dictate us into some shots,” Jones said. “That starts with me out front, being able to handle that pressure, make sure our guys are calm down the stretch, and whether it’s getting us into an action, getting us into a set or creating something myself or creating something for others, just got to make sure we don’t let their physicality or their pressure kind of speed us up.”
4. Wiseman provides an update on his progress
During this series, Warriors center James Wiseman has felt both at home and like he’s in foreign territory.
After starring at East High School and the University of Memphis, Wiseman joined the Warriors for the first two games in Memphis so he could be around family and enjoy his mom’s home-cooked spaghetti. But like he has all season, Wiseman remained on the sidelines because of a right knee injury.
“It’s always good to just feel that energy and atmosphere while being home. But it ticked me off a little bit because I wanted to play,” Wiseman said. “I was pissed because I wanted to play and I wanted to play this season. It is what it is. It’s life.”
Wiseman has played in only 39 games since being selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 Draft and has yet to play an NBA game in his hometown. But in his first session with the media since the Warriors ruled him out indefinitely in March, Wiseman appeared positive with both his body language and words.
“It made me stronger. It just depends on how you respond,” Wiseman said. “I can easily give up and say, I don’t want to do this. But that’s not in my DNA. I’m going to keep working and keep persevering. But I got faith and I got God on my side.”
Wiseman also has various mentors on his side. One of them is Shaun Livingston, the Warriors’ director of player affairs and former NBA player who himself missed 101 of 246 regular-season games in his first three seasons after suffering a horrific leg injury.
Kerr also has encouraged Wiseman to study Jackson Jr., who played 11 games last season with a torn meniscus to become an All-Defensive candidate.
“It’s helpful for James to have that example in front of him,” Kerr said. “He’s a diligent worker and he’s putting in the time. We’re very confident that he will have a long and great career.”
It remains to be seen whether that will be with the Warriors. They will have to decide by Oct. 31 whether to pick up Wiseman’s $12.1 million option for the 2023-24 season. But in the meantime, Wiseman said he has studied various big men — including Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid — as well as observing the Warriors’ playoff preparation.
Does that mean Wiseman can suit up for NBA Summer League in July?
“If it progresses well, then of course,” Wiseman said. “But it’s still up in the air. It depends on the training staff.”
5. Adreian Payne’s death hits close to home
It was a big win for the Warriors, but a painful day for Draymond Green. Green mourned the death of former Michigan State teammate Adreian Payne, who was shot and killed in Orlando, Fla., early Monday morning.
“My emotions are kind of all over the place now,” Green said. “I’m kind of losing that emotion from the game. So I’m going to go home and just sit on my podcast and talk because I can pause that and cry if I need to cry. I don’t like to cry in front of people.”
Green then announced that he and his wife, Hazel, plan to donate $100,000 to honor Payne and form a foundation. He called on Spartan coach Tom Izzo and various Spartan luminaries, including Jackson Jr., Magic Johnson, Miles Bridges and Mat Ishbia to help honor Payne. Green suggested the foundation could fund scholarships.
For Game 4, Green wore shoes with the words “Long live 5” and “RIP AP” to honor Payne, whom the Atlanta Hawks drafted at No. 15 in 2014.
“I’m going to go home and talk about Adreian, and I’ll talk a little bit about this game. But I can do it at my own speed and at my own space,” Green said. “I apologize. I will give you guys the greatest press conference after Wednesday’s game, but I just don’t have it in me tonight, I truly apologize.”
Before taking questions following morning shootaround, Kerr offered condolences to the Payne family as well as empathy for Green and Jackson.
“Definitely shook us all up,” Jackson said. “It’s super tough. I’ve already talked to a lot of alumni, and I saw Dray this morning. It’s tough on all of us. Life man, it’s precious.”
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