It’s now time for game 4 in two series with the lower seeds holding the lead: The Washington Wizards, hosting the Atlanta Hawks, and the Memphis Grizzlies, trying to put the squeeze on the Golden State Warriors.
Steve Kerr has had it quite easy on his debut year as a head coach, but now comes the real challenge. How does he get Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to work again, as the Grizzlies, now that Mike Conley is back to terrorize the backcourt next to Tony Allen on defense, are taking the best team in the regular season out of their comfort zone.
Curry is shooting just 39.7% from the field and 27.6% from beyond the arc, struggling to find room and handle the physicality of the series. Thompson isn’t doing that badly, but for the Warriors to function as a superior team, Curry either needs to revert to old-school point guard and become a facilitator first and foremost, which isn’t making the most of his skills, or find some way to escape the hounding Grizzlies guards.
Green is the more mysterious turnaround. After a huge regular season and a great first round against the Pelicans, he looks lost on the court sometimes, in small or big lineups. He’s shooting just 30% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc, hovering too far away from the basket, and not being able to exert his defensive dominance due to the Grizzlies not really lowering their heads to his semi physical, semi dirty style.
Memphis need to keep doing what it’s doing, which is force a lot of turnovers and make it more of a scrapfest than a battle of smooth offense. Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and even Vince Carter (in very small amounts) need to keep making shots. The core of this team is the Conley-Allen-Gasol-Randolph quartet, but having some help from the outside doesn’t hurt.
Hawks vs Wizards
Another #1 seed finds itself behind and not in a position to feel very confident about where things are going. Even without John Wall, the Wizards seem to have an answer to the Hawks’ attempts at speeding up the series. Paul Pierce has the ball go through him, and even if he isn’t scoring a lot, making the right decisions, not to mention hitting game winning shots at the buzzer, doesn’t hurt at all.
Kyle Korver can’t shoot just five times in a game. He’s the biggest threat on the floor when he’s playing, but if the Wizards don’t have to respect that, he’s almost redundant. Pero Antic doesn’t have much of a place in this series. Either go small-ball like they did in a desperate fourth quarter comeback, or have Paul Millsap back in the lineup, because even if he isn’t the shooter Antic is, he can do a lot more on the floor, not to mention do a bit more under the basket against Nene and Gortat.
This series is more up to the Hawks than the Wizards, still. But Jeff Teague is disappointing, and if he doesn’t start making the right decisions with the ball, which means eliminating the bad shots (shooting just 29.3% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc) and remembering what worked so well in the regular season, a historic year for the Hawks will go down the drain because they couldn’t make the professional and psychological adjustments against a team playing without it’s best player.