1. When do you hope/expect Mike Conley to return? If he comes back mid-series, do you think he can turn it in Memphis' favor?
Joe Witherwax: The minimum in my mind is two weeks from the injury. That would put him at game 3 or 4 at home. Can you imagine if his first game back is on a Saturday night in Memphis? Woo...
Matt Hrdlicka: Game 3.
Adam Rubrum: I think Mike Conley only misses one game, if that. I believe the swelling around his eye should be down by this weekend and we will be seeing what mask he has chosen by Sunday. Whenever he does actually play, it will definitely turn things in Memphis' favor. Before his unfortunate injury, Conley was having a great series against the Blazers, despite having a nagging foot injury. Defensively, he is tougher than Udrih, and he is far more productive offensively than Calathes. The Grizz need his leadership on and off the court in order to win this series.
Kevin Yeung: ‘Facial fractures’ and all that, but Conley’s eye doesn’t look any worse than Kelly Olynyk’s, and Olynyk didn’t miss a game. By Kevin Yeung maths, which have an obvious dog in this fight, Conley should be back sooner rather than later – you can’t really afford to go too long without him against this Warriors team. I’d like to think he can make a huge difference even if he comes back rusty against Steph Curry, by virtue of being a two-way guard alone. Udrih and Calathes are strictly one-trick ponies, and in the playoffs, it’s hard to swallow that.
Eric Lenser: Unfortunately all of Conley's (and Grizz nation's) wishes for a rapid return can't be exchanged for rest days. After looking at the typical timetable for a return and some post-op photos of guys like Larry Sanders, I'm a little pessimistic even though Conley's grotesque interview was mostly the result of simple swelling. I think the best we can reasonably hope for is a homecoming during Game 4.
Jonah Jordan: I think the people counting out Mike Conley are crazy. I think if he can see he's going to play. They know he has to play if they want a slight chance at winning. I won't say he's not playing until I don't see a number 11 on the floor come Sunday.
Andrew Millen: I think the best timing for Mike and the team both would be Game 3 at home. If the Grizzlies can manage a split in Oakland (no mean feat), they'll have all the momentum rolling into Saturday night and Conley's return would help swell the tide. I doubt he'll travel with the team for the first two, so he'll be well rested and hopefully at full strength by then.
Grace Baker: Knowing Mike Conley, I expect him to be back for Game 2 at the latest. The guy is a total warrior, and I've seen him play practically on one leg in Game 7 of the OKC series last year. Yes, I do think he can move the needle somewhat, even if he isn't at 100%. Having Mike Conley on Steph Curry sounds better than relying solely on Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes to limit Curry. Conley's return would definitely be a big boost for the Grizzlies, and I expect him to return during the series.
2. Which will be more important for the Grizzlies' scoring against GSW - front court or back?
JW: I'd have to say front court as things stand. The Grizzlies are going to need an All-NBA series from Marc Gasol and need Z-Bo to be at least moderately efficient while pounding the boards for second chance opportunities.
MH: Front court. Everything bends around Gasol and ZBo. If ZBo can play Draymond to a draw, or get him into foul trouble, the game changes for GSW. They can't switch as much. They have to play Speights more, and even though he's been good this year, I'll take my chances with him, or Ezeli.
AR: Back court. I always expect the front court to provide most of the scoring. It's how it should be every game. Though there seemed to be some struggles against the Blazers, the Grizzlies tend to live or die based on how productive Zbo and Marc are. That being said, everyone knows the Grizzlies aren't an offensive powerhouse, and we will need a high level of production from our guards. If Courtney Lee and Mike can provide the same offense as they did vs the Blazers, this should be a very competitive series.
KY: I'm of the opinion that the best matchup for the Grizzlies to exploit here, especially with Conley's status in question, is Draymond Green. Maybe it's counterintuitive to go at the guy with the rightful claim to the Defensive Player of the Year award this season, but Zach Randolph (and Marc Gasol) have given him problems on the block before. If you can force the Warriors to need to adjust, advantage Grizzlies.
EL: Back court. If we have any hopes of a competitive series then the front court's success is needs to be a given. The X Factors will come from our backcourt. Our best matchup is down low on both ends but Golden State doesn't need to get points there, they'll just shoot 3's all day. To match that our guards will need to turn in some big time performances.
JJ: The Grizzlies back court has to produce or this will be a short series. You aren't going to beat the Warriors without having Conley and Lee produce. Beno Udrih will also have to get past his ankle injury and do half of what he did against the Trail Blazers in Games 1 and 2 of Round 1. The Grizzlies will have front court production, but that won't be good enough to win.
AM: I'd say front court. If the back court guys aren't scoring, it can be overcome by Zach and Marc. If the bigs aren't scoring, the Grizz will be sitting ducks. Let the guards focus on defending Klay and Steph on one end, and on the other, just throw it to the hand.
GB: I would say back court. Against Golden State, the Grizzlies are going to have to spread the floor. We saw the level Courtney Lee can perform at in the Blazers series. Memphis is going to need consistent production from him, as well as from Vince Carter and Beno Udrih. Beno is still dealing with his ankle injury, but we saw how he was playing before the injury. If he could play like he did in the first couple of games in the Blazers series, that would be huge for Memphis, especially if Mike Conley is out a couple of games.
3. Without Mike Conley, how would you match up our guards defensively against Klay Thompson and Steph Curry?
JW: This depends some on Beno's ankles. He's been a shell of himself since his ankle injury and likely wouldn't start if he's not 100%. Assuming Calathes gets the bulk of the starter minutes, I think I'd put Calathes on Klay, Tony on Steph, and let Courtney guard Barnes.
MH: I'd start Calathes, and switch him and Allen and Lee onto Curry. I'd pressure him some full court, deny the ball in the half court, and at the inbounds. MEM can rotate these three guys on Curry and try to wear him down. The downside is that Curry can always hide on defense on either Calathes or TA.
AR: I highly doubt i'm in the minority when saying it is not a pleasant thought thinking about our guards going against their guards, and that's even with Mike. Tony will get the start and hopefully go against Thompson. That means Calathes will be back in the starting lineup and have the fun task of guarding Curry. I'm not sure how Lee will fit into the mix, but I'm not going to be happy if TA is starting and guarding Barnes. Whatever the defensive plan Joerger has, I hope it stresses how important it is for anyone guarding those two to get over screens and not over help on the Warrior bigs leaving them wide open for 3's. It is not a huge secret that the Grizzlies are not very good at defending the 3 point line. If there was ever a time when we need that to change, it's going to be in this series.
KY: I just saw Beno Udrih torched by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and Nick Calathes played off the floor for being unable to score on those two. If Courtney Lee can operate as a pseudo-point guard like he did at times in Game 5 against the Blazers, that's fantastic because he's a two-way player. This time, though, he'll have to do it against two good defenders in Curry and Thompson. Let's just say, Tony Allen will be huge.
EL: Very carefully and with my fingers crossed. Tony/Calathes is the ideal combo but it gets us no points on the other end so Lee is going to need to be stronger defensively and try to work alongside those two in some interesting lineups. Without Mike it's going to be a lot of "lesser of two evils" situations and then try to respond on the other end.
AM: I loved the Lee-Allen-Green lineup that Joerger used to close the first half against Portland. Neither Calathes nor Beno has all the tools necessary to stay on the court for long, but Lee works both ways and can handle the ball well enough. I'd throw as many guys as possible at Curry all the way down the court to wear him out, and tell whoever is guarding Klay to never help off him even if the damn building's on fire.
GB: Well, I'd prefer to put Tony Allen on Steph Curry. To me, he is more dangerous. Honestly, you just have to pick your poison. Hopefully Tony can limit Thompson or Curry, but Beno or Calathes is going to have to defend one of the Splash Brothers. Beno's ankle needs to heal up. In the last game, Beno was getting destroyed on defense. I think this was partly due to his injury. Calathes is a decent defender, but I don't know if he can contain Curry or Thompson enough.
4. Who do you see as a dark horse game-changer in this series - for either team?
JW: I believe the Grizzlies will need a couple of productive games each from Vince Carter and Jeff Green. The Warriors are going to get their points, even against the Grizzlies's defense, so Memphis has to find a way to get extra points somewhere. Vince showed up in the first round when it was needed most, and I hope the Ghost of Playoffs Past is ready to pay Golden State a visit. Green's 27% first round shooting was pretty dreadful but he did come up with some big plays in Game 5 and hey, he's due, right?
MH: ZBo. He's not a dark horse, but he's the most important chess piece in the series on either side of the ball. He has to win the battle vs GSW's bigs and force them to go big, or at least to put Bogut on him and give Marc an easier matchup. If he doesn't, it'll be over midway through game 3.
AR: Jeff Green. Though he did hit some big buckets and make a few good defensive plays, overall his performance in the first round was less than spectacular. He should be guarding Draymond Green, Iguodala, and/or Barnes. All of those should be better matchups for him defensively. On the offensive side, I am hoping that he figures out he needs to settle for less jump shots and attacks the basket more. Against Barnes and Iggy, I think he should be able to get to the rim easily. It may be blind faith, but I believe we will get a huge performance out of Green and he will be one of the reasons we take the series.
KY: Heart's been saying Vince Carter since Day 1, but that's unlikely and the Grizzlies' depth will be tested without Conley. I'm actually curious how David Lee may be used, after not playing a minute in Round 1. The Warriors will need all the big bodies they can get up front against the Grizzlies frontcourt, especially if Green gets outpowered on the block. I don't have much faith in Lee's post defense, but he's burly and may stand a chance if the Grizzlies are without Conley to abuse him in the pick-and-roll.
EL: Jeff Green. He has to do what he was brought in to do and turn in some out-of-the-blue, MVP performances. They just have to be much more regular and strung together. He does has the athletic capabilities to do that which is especially important against the nearly flawless Warriors.
JJ: For the Warriors an engaged/hot Harrison Barnes means they are probably going to win.The Grizzlies have nobody to really match up with him. He's a better offensive player and a better defender than Harrison Barnes. If Barnes finds a rhythm on offense it's over.
AM: Not a total dark horse, but Draymond Green scares the hell out of me. He averaged 16 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.5 steals, and a block and a half per game against New Orleans. He may spend some time guarding Zach Randolph, which can be a problem. If he stuffs up the paint, and the Grizzlies' guards run cold, Memphis will have a bad time.
GB: Jeff Green. His first round performance was underwhelming, but he made some important plays towards the end of the last game. I hope Green gains some confidence and uses his athleticism in this series. He needs to hit corner three's and get to the free throw line. It would be awesome if we could get a Jeff Green game where he scores 20. If he can step up, that would be an X factor for Memphis.
5. Prediction time: Who do you like in the series, and in how many games?
JW: Who do I like and in how many games? I like the Grizzlies in all games, what kind of question is this? Seriously, though, the Grizzlies certainly have long odds in this one but I can't pick against Memphis. Grizzlies in 7. I BELIEVE.
MH: The only way MEM wins is in 6. Meanwhile GSW Can win in 4, 5, 6, or 7. So I'll just be the one person in the world who picks MEM in 6.
AR: If Conley comes back by game 2, Grizz in 6. If he misses more than 2 games, Warriors in 6.
KY: I've told people before I'm taking Dubs over the field this year, so Warriors in six.
EL: I don't like Golden State at all, I think Curry is super annoying (not just because he frustrates our defense). But I think GSW win in 5. My heart says Memphis in 6 though! GRIT N GRIND 4eva!
JJ: Grizzlies in 7 is what I've been saying so I'm going to stick with that.
AM: Conley comes back to give the Grizz a boost, but the Warriors take it in seven.
GB: I definitely see why everyone is picking Golden State, but I'm going to pick Memphis in 6 games. Hopefully, the Grizzlies will get Mike back for one of the first two games. We've seen Memphis perform in the underdog role many times, and they always bring great effort. If Memphis can grab a win on the road, they just need to win their home games. It's going to be tough, but it's definitely not impossible. I mean, remember the 2011 playoffs? BELIEVE MEMPHIS!