With One Eye, a Mask and Excellent Defense, The Memphis Grizzlies Stun the Golden State Warriors

Mike Conley

A number of factors contributed to the Memphis Grizzlies beating the Golden State Warriors 97-90, levelling the conference semifinals series at 1-1. Mike Conley returning with one eye and a mask to terrorize the backcourt, excellent defense provided by him, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol, but also a terrible shooting day for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, maybe taken out of focus by the pregame MVP ceremony.

Curry said it was weird to have it so close to the tip off, but doesn’t think it contributed to his team’s bad play. The main factor was their shooting. Games are often decided on field goal and 3-pointer percentage. Everything else is minor, or leads up to those numbers. The Warriors without 3-pointers are almost like a crippled team. They shot 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. A team that relies so heavily on Curry and Thompson getting into their groove (Shot a combined 3-of-17) can’t win under those circumstances.

Not all those misses were because of Conley and Allen, but their combined defense did rush the Warriors into a lot of bad shots. No patience, no ball movement, not time to set screens and get shooters open. The Warriors kept taking rushed, hurried shots, usually from long range, completely getting away from the flow and rhythm we usually see them execute in.

Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry

On the other side, the Grizzlies got an excellent night from Conley, scoring 22 points in just 27 minutes, leaving the game after cramping up. Zach Randolph was hard to slow down under the basket, finishing with 20 points, while both Marc Gasol (only 31 minutes because of foul trouble) and Courtney Lee each scored 15 points. Jeff Green with 8 points was the only one who actually gave something from the bench, scoring 8. The Grizzlies aren’t going to get too much from that unit in this series.

The Warriors lost the shooting battle, the turnover battle and were outscored on the fast break, something that rarely happens. Draymond Green, maybe the most important player on this team, looked tired and a bit overwhelmed by Memphis’ renewed enthusiasm and physicality. Leandro Barbosa did do a good job off the bench, but he was probably the only one, and the small lineups the Warriors went with didn’t really make a difference.

The Warriors are still the better, deeper team, with the best or two best scorers in the series. But the Grizzlies with Conley are a very different team; one that suddenly has options, a killer defensive perimeter and the ability to make the Warriors’ defense respect the pick & roll and the outside shot. It might be a complication for Golden State, but it’s a great thing for those who wish to see a competitive series.

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