MEMPHIS — Ja Morant and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies have shown they can finish fourth quarters this postseason.
Well, the Golden State Warriors have been doing this for years in the NBA playoffs — and they have the championships to prove it.
Klay Thompson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, and the Warriors overcame Draymond Green's first-half ejection to edge the Grizzlies 117-116 on Sunday in the opener of a Western Conference semifinal series. Game 2 of the best-of-seven set is Tuesday night in Memphis.
"The core, we've got championship DNA, and we wanted to utilize that," Golden State guard Stephen Curry said. "At this stage, that's what it's all about. Never let go of the rope in terms of feeling like you're out of a game. Big win for us."
Jordan Poole led the Warriors with a career-high 31 points off the bench, shooting 5-of-10 from 3-point range for his best such showing in the playoffs. Curry added 24 points, Andrew Wiggins had 17 and Thompson finished with 15.
Green was ejected for a flagrant foul just before halftime.
"We knew that was a tough break that didn't go our way, and we were all kind of shocked by the decision," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "but we were confident and determined, and the guys stayed with it."
Thompson missed both free throws with 6.7 seconds left, then Memphis won a jumpball before a timeout with 3.6 seconds remaining to set up the final sequence. The Grizzlies ran a play similar to Morant's last-second layup to win Game 5 in the first round against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Morant's layup went off the backboard and over the rim.
"Got a great look," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. "It just didn't happen to go in."
Added Morant: "Klay hit a big-time 3, and I missed the layup."
Thompson helped guard Morant on the final drive, picking up when Gary Payton II was beaten. Thompson called it a "gut-check win" for a team that's been through so much the past couple years with injuries and missing the playoffs after previously dominating to the tune of five straight NBA Finals appearances from 2015-19 with three championships.
"We're far from satisfied," Thompson said.
Morant finished with 34 points and 10 assists, and Jaren Jackson Jr. matched his season high with six 3-pointers and had a career-high 33 points as the first pair of Memphis teammates to score at least 30 apiece in a playoff game. D'Anthony Melton added 14, and Brandon Clarke had 12.
The Grizzlies finished their first-round series against Minnesota by coming back from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter in their final three wins — the first team in NBA history to mount such a rally more than once in a postseason, let alone a series. They entered Sunday leading the NBA in the fourth quarter this season with an average of 33 points and outscoring opponents by 10.3 points a game.
This time, they could only match the Warriors point for point in the pivotal period.
Memphis edged the Warriors for the No. 2 seed in the West by tying the franchise record with 56 regular-season wins, and the Grizzlies also took three of four in the season series. Thompson played in only one and Green two of those games, with Curry sitting once.
This was a rematch with role reversals from the 2015 semifinal series the Warriors won as the younger team with Memphis led by experienced veterans. This also was just the first time the Warriors started a conference semifinal series on the road and third playoff series Golden State didn't start at home with Kerr as coach. He took over in 2014.
The Warriors mixed up their lineup, benching Poole in favor of Payton to focus on guarding Morant, the All-Star point guard who won the league's most improved player honor this season.
Morant had 14 to help the Grizzlies lead 32-24 after the first quarter. The Grizzlies led by as much as 13 in the second quarter and were up 61-55 at halftime.
With 1:18 left before the break, Green fouled Brandon Clarke. Officials reviewed the play for several minutes with fans chanting "Throw him out!" Green finished with six points, four rebounds and five turnovers.
Clarke said Green is known for his flagrant fouls.
"He did hit me pretty hard, twice really when I saw it again," Clarke said. "It's just coming out and playing our ball. I'm not really worried about him. It's not shocking that he did that."
Poole finished with the fifth-most points off the bench in a playoff game for Golden State over the past 40 years. Curry holds the top three spots, including two against the Denver Nuggets in the first round this year. Poole started each game against Denver before coming off the bench Sunday, but Kerr said it was an easy conversation.
"I didn't say it, but Steph Curry came off the bench for three games, four games?" Kerr said. "If Steph Curry can come off the bench, anybody can come off the bench."
With Poole's contribution, Golden State's bench easily outscored Memphis 47-30. Poole also had eight rebounds and nine assists.