Maybe it was a good sign Ja Morant made his first two 3-pointers. After his third in the third quarter, he lifted his finger to shush the crowd at Chase Center.
The Memphis Grizzlies didn’t play scared of facing elimination Friday. They came out bold to match the Golden State Warriors not wanting to lose at home. Morant matched Stephen Curry with his shooting.
It took overtime to decide things and Morant rose up for a floater with 4.5 seconds left. He made it and furiously bobbed his head in celebration while Dillon Brooks embraced him.
Fans started to leave and the Grizzlies won 117-112 to end a four-year playoff drought and advance as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
“I can’t say we’re surprised at the position that we’re in because we worked for it, but always grateful to be where we’re at,” Morant said.
A 10-point Grizzlies fourth-quarter lead faded on Warriors free throws and questionable decisions. A foul on Desmond Bane went unchallenged by the Grizzlies despite Jordan Poole kicking out his leg on a 3-pointer.
PLAYOFF SCHEDULE:First-round matchups, game times and TV info
He made all three and Curry tied the game with a pair. Then the Grizzlies, on their final possession of regulation, didn’t call timeout and got a shot-clock violation on a missed 3-pointer by Xavier Tillman.
Draymond Green missed a potential game-winning shot in regulation. But it didn’t matter as the Grizzlies stayed tough and trusted Morant and their defense to finish things off.
Morant finished with 35 points, six rebounds and four steals. It was a superstar-level performance that he described on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” as the best game of his career.
The Grizzlies became the youngest team to make the playoffs since the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder. They relied heavy on that youth with rookies Tillman and Bane stepping up with Jonas Valanciunas and Jaren Jackson Jr. in foul trouble.
Tillman hit a 3-pointer with 1:27 left to put the Grizzlies up 110-109. Morant followed suit with his final two baskets to start the celebration.
Bane had 10 points and ended the game with an emphatic slam with 1.2 seconds left. Grayson Allen, who struggled Wednesday in his return from injury, had 12 points, including two 3-pointers in overtime.
It was the type of gritty, disciplined play the Grizzlies showed winning six of their last seven games. The Grizzlies forced 21 turnovers, and while Curry had 39 points, he shot 6-for-15 when Brooks was his primary defender, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Curry’s season ended as an finalist for Most Valuable Player. Morant and the Grizzlies’ season continues Sunday against the Utah Jazz. It wasn’t a torch passing, but rather a torch-snatching by Morant as he and the Grizzlies stayed alive to fight another day.
“I know it’s a big accomplishment for all of us, but me and Dillon know the job’s not finished,” Morant said. “We’re not trying to be done making it to the playoffs. We have to lock back in to playing Utah who has the best record in the league.”
Follow Evan Barnes on Twitter @evan_b.