By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Golden State Warriors survived the hungry Memphis Grizzlies team, 117-116, to take Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals clash while the visiting Milwaukee Bucks grabbed the home-court advantage and got the better of the Boston Celtics, 101-89, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After their 4-1 first-round win against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, the rolling Golden State Warriors faced the tough task of containing the young and athletic Memphis team that took down the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Memphis continued their momentum from their first-round win and shot the lights out in the opening quarters against the Warriors led by the unconscious Ja Morant and Jarren Jackson Jr. who combined for 67 points.
With the hot-shooting of Jackson Jr. and Morant attacking the Warriors’ interior at will, Memphis’ lead swelled to as much as 10 points, 30-20, at the end of the first quarter.
Golden State’s struggles worsened after Draymond Green got ejected from the game when he was assessed a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke.
The Grizzlies then closed the first half strong after Morant threw down a high-leaping alley-oop dunk while finishing the buzzer-beating layup for a six-point lead.
Refusing to back down without their main defensive star, the Warriors played a flawless second half and rallied their way back courtesy of ‘the death trio’s’ scorching-hot shooting.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole all went wild in the last two quarters and scored 24, 15, and 31, for the game respectively.
Morant would go berserk once again in the final canto and scored two-straight drives to put Memphis ahead, 114-112, with 1:44 remaining in the game.
Golden State would answer back and tie the ball game at 114 when Curry found a cutting Gary Payton II for an easy deuce underneath.
Memphis retaliated with their own easy two-point score as Morant found Clarke for an alley-oop that swung the lead back in their favor.
With 39 seconds left in the ball game, Thompson buried the three-point dagger in the right elbow that gave them the lead and helped seal the deal for Golden State.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks showed why they are the defending champions and handed the Boston Celtics a rude wake-up call in the semifinals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo notched an impressive triple-double performance with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists despite the absence of star shooting guard Khris Middleton who was initially ruled out of the series due to a left knee MCL sprain.
It was the Celtics who started the game hot with Al Horford and Marcus Smart knocking down a pair of threes and Robert Williams doing an impressive job of controlling the paint and keeping Antetokounmpo away from his driving lanes.
However, Jrue Holiday’s hot shooting led Milwaukee to an early spark and finished the game with 25 huge points and was 3/5 from three-point territory.
Boston’s power duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown recorded their lowest shooting percentages of the playoffs so far and only combined for 33 points in 40 minutes of playing together.
Milwaukee will look to continue their fine performance and keep the lead in the rebounding battle as they square off again on May 4 for Game 2.