The Golden State Warriors remain on top of the standings in the Western conference, but their winning streak of 16 games is over, losing 105-98 to the Memphis Grizzlies behind a great game from Marc Gasol and coming off the bench, the never ending Vince Carter.
The Warriors opened strongly, taking a 30-24 lead in the first quarter. However, the Grizzlies opened the second quarter with a 20-0 run and never gave up the lead. The Warriors were terrible during the moments Stephen Curry took some time to rest on the bench, losing by 23 points during his nine minutes of rest and shooting only 3-of-19 from the field when he wasn’t playing. Curry himself shot a bad 9-of-25, trying to force his team back in the game, scoring 19 points.
Curry was 0-of-9 when taking contested jump shots, defended by either Mike Conley or Beno Udrih. This kind of on-ball defense helped the Grizzlies hold the Warriors to 32.9% on their half court sets, while shooting a much better 64% in transition. However, without Andrew Bogut to anchor the defense, the Warriors didn’t get on the break as often and had no answer to Gasol and Randolph under the basket, with Memphis scoring 50 points in the paint.
The bench unit with Beno Udrih and Vince Carter were in charge of the run that changed the game. Udrih finished the game with six points and 8 assists, and was involved in 19 of the 20 points in the run, while Vince Carter hit three times from beyond the arc. Memphis shot 8-of-10 from the field during the run, while the Warriors missed all of their eleven field goal attempts. Curry was on the bench for the entire run.
Gasol made the most of not having to face Bogut, looking a lot more aggressive, scoring 24 points and making 24 passes less than his 50-per game average. Randolph added 17 points and 10 rebounds, including four on offense while Jon Leuer brought a surprising contribution off the bench, scoring 11 points, also doing a very good job during that 20-0 run that turned the game around and pretty much decided it.
Memphis shot 60% from the field on jump shots during the first half, while the Warriors made only 34.8% of their attempts. Without the defense doing its usual work, the Warriors resorted to the thing that worked well (and sometimes badly) for them over the last three years. When the shots don’t drop, they look miserable out there on the floor. Steve Kerr has been able to weed out old habits and default attempts, but it’s not easy removing them completely.
The Grizzlies, now at 20-4 including 12-1 at home (have won 26 of their last 27 at home), are off to their best 24-game start. It’s only the second time they’ve gotten to 20 wins in less than 30 games. Last season was an anomaly, caused by their best player, Gasol, missing so many games. They still made it into the playoffs, and almost knocked off the Thunder. Playing very good basketball on both ends of the floor despite defensive limitations, not taking them seriously as title contenders is simply ignoring the facts and the last few seasons.