The Memphis Grizzlies fell, with a relatively loud splat, on Monday night at home in the FedExForum as the Golden State Warriors beat them in almost every aspect of the game on their way to a 101-84 victory over the Bears of Beale Street. Memphis lacked the energy and execution that were the hallmarks of their Game Two and Three victories over Golden State. Give the Warriors credit - their offense was crisp, their defense was stifling, and their stars and role players rose to the challenge in what was the first true test of their mental toughness this season.
Three things we learned:
- Steve Kerr and Company Adjust Well: The Golden State Warriors came out and started the game with a unique way of responding to the Grizzlies' offense. They began the game with Harrison Barnes defending Zach Randolph, fronting him in the post, while Klay Thompson defended Mike Conley and Andrew Bogut "defended" Tony Allen. I use the term "defended" loosely; Bogut essentially became a "rover" on defense, much like a free safety in football, deflecting balls, playing passing lanes, and helping on bigger offensive threats, while allowing TA to shoot the ball, especially from range. Allen shot (and missed) three early three-point shots, the offense struggled as Golden State gained an early lead, and Dave Joerger subbed TA out for Jeff Green early. Kerr and his staff clearly understand the impact Tony Allen has had on this series, and negating "The Tony Allen Effect" by going all "San Antonio Spurs in 2013 Western Conference Finals" in a 2015 Golden State kind of way threw Memphis off early. They never recovered.
- Golden State's Role Players Can Shine Like Stars: Stephen Curry (33 points, 4 made threes) and Klay Thompson (15 points, 3 made threes) certainly get the headlines, but what makes Golden State so darn good is their role players, when they play up to the level of their All-Star counterparts. Andrew Bogut was a team-leading +21 on his way to a nice 8 rebound, 5 assist stat line, plus his ability to protect the rim was tremendous throughout the contest. Draymond Green was a revelation, attacking on both ends of the court, making life tough for Marc Gasol (more on him later) and hitting three 3-point shots. Green scored early in their Game One win, and did so in Game Four as well. Add on Andre Iguodala hitting 3 three-pointers himself, and you have three key Warriors who contributed in a major way to this Game Four win.
- Memphis Struggles When Multiple "Core Four" Guys Struggle: OK, this one we already knew. Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal calls it the "Conley Corollary" when it comes to Mike Conley in particular, and he looked spent for the first time since his triumphant Game Two return, especially in shooting (10 points on 4-15 shooting, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals). It wasn't just Mike though; Marc Gasol had serious issues scoring at the rim (19 points on 7-19 shooting with 10 boards and 6 assists), and Tony Allen (2-9 in 16 minutes) was basically made a non-factor. Gasol and Zach Randolph (12 points, 11 rebounds) both posted double-doubles, but the numbers do not tell the whole story; they, and the "core four" at large, were outclassed for the first time since Game One, and it showed in the final score.