For the second time in three days in the Play-In Tournament, the Memphis Grizzlies were competing in a 'win or go home' contest.
Led by reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, the pressure didn't bother the young squad as they rode into San Francisco and clinched the eighth and final seed in the West by defeating the Warriors 117-112 in overtime.
In the must-win game, Morant led from the front. He finished with a team-high tally of 35 points including a couple of clutch floaters late in overtime.
JA MORANT SEALS IT, SENDING THE @MEMGRIZZ TO THE #NBAPLAYOFFS! pic.twitter.com/szxpXfTw9c- NBA (@NBA) May 22, 2021
"I like when the pressure is on me," Morant said postgame about his late-game takeover. "[It] uplifts my game."
It certainly took Morant's game up a notch. As part of the 35, he knocked down a career-high five 3-pointers on 5-of-10 shooting, which is a huge uptick from his season average of 30.3 percent.
In their meeting on the final day of the regular season, the Warriors dared Morant to shoot from deep as he went 1-of-6 and facing similar coverage tonight, he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
He also finished the game with six rebounds, six assists and four steals with his all-round stat line putting him in the franchise's record books.
Ja Morant is the 2nd player in Grizzlies history with 35 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in a game.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 22, 2021
He joins Jason Williams in 2001. pic.twitter.com/hrQCsZiCMY
"I got all the confidence in the world in my game. Late, coach tried to set a screen. I just told him to move. I want the pressure."
Over the course of the fourth quarter and overtime, Morant scored or assisted on 21 of the team's 39 points as the Grizzlies showed tremendous resiliency to remain composed despite giving up a 10-point lead late in regulation.
In fact, led by 21-year-old Morant, the Grizzlies are the youngest team to make the NBA postseason in a decade since the Oklahoma City Thunder starring the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Their 112 games of combined Playoffs experience ranking the second-fewest of any team in the NBA.
"We just go out and battle," Morant said of Memphis showing poise and calmness despite competing against teams far more experienced than them.
With this well-earned victory, the Grizzlies make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, while it will be the first for Morant. Their reward will be a seven-game series against the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the league.
Looking ahead at that series, the 6'3" guard, in typical Morant fashion said that everybody can expect 'a fight'.
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