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Muddy the Window: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors Game Five Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies got knocked down in Game Four. How they get back up in Game Five will make all of the difference.

"Wendigo" will need to have a huge game on both ends to slow Steph Curry and company.
"Wendigo" will need to have a huge game on both ends to slow Steph Curry and company.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Before we begin here, here are some numbers to terrify you:

  • The Memphis Grizzlies won two games in a row over the Golden State Warriors, Games Two and Three. Golden State lost two games in a row four times in the regular season, with the Warriors going on winning streaks of sixteen, eight, three and nine games. The final streak carried over in to the postseason sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State's Game One victory over these Grizzlies.
  • Including the regular and post season (over 87 games in which he plays), Golden State is 31-3 when Draymond Green hits two or more three-point shots. This has held true in the current series with Memphis: when Green hit two or more threes, the Warriors won the two contests (and Green was also more active on the glass, with a double double in both games.)
  • In the 2015 NBA Playoffs Memphis's best player, Marc Gasol, has shot almost .8 worse (.415) than his regular season shooting average (.494). With Marc Gasol shooting so poorly, especially over the past two games (13-36, or 36.1%) the levels of concern among Grizzlies fans are more than fair.

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Feeling some despair? Let's bring you back with some good numbers.
  • Since the beginning of the "Grit and Grind Era" in 2010-2011 Memphis has gone 3-6 in Game Fours. In Game Fives? 5-2. Golden State is 0-3 in Game Fives over that same time period (in fairness, all three of those games were on the road whereas tonight's contest will be at home for Golden State in Oracle Arena.)
  • In 85 games this season, playoffs and regular season combined, Andre Iguodala has hit more than one three in 21 games (he's done this twice in the Grizzlies series) and three or more 3-point shots (he hit three in Game Four against Memphis) eight times. That is 24.7% of games with multiple threes and 9.4% of games with three or more threes. Iguodala, a key player in Game Four, is not likely to have a repeat performance shooting wise according to the law of averages.
  • Marc Gasol's shooting, mentioned earlier, is due for an improvement. The last two times Gasol had shooting performances below 37% overall two games in a row, Marc has exploded in the following third game (21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists in Game Four vs. Portland, 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a February 4th contest against the Utah Jazz.) Yes, the poor performances shooting consecutively are that spread out. In fact, after his longest such streak of shooting below 37% (three games from November 7th-11th) he closed out the month shooting 52.6% over nine games.
The ultimate example of bad news/good news? According to whowins.com...
Ignoring win order; considering site order: The team tied 2-games-all with site order HHVV (Golden State) has the following best-of-7 playoff series and games record through the 2015 NBA preliminary rounds-

series record, NBA only, all rounds: 126-35 (.783)
Hope is lost, right? Not necessarily, again according to whowins.com...
Considering win order; ignoring site order: The team tied WLLW irrespective of site order (Golden State) has the following best-of-7 playoff series and games record through the 2015 NBA preliminary rounds-

series record, NBA only, all rounds: 19-23 (.452)

So if you ignore the site of the game, Memphis has a shot to win, historically speaking. If you ignore the order of the wins, Golden State is very likely to advance. If you consider both?

Considering win order; considering site order: The team tied WLLW with site order HHVV (Golden State) has the following best-of-7 playoff series and games record through the 2015 NBA Preliminary rounds:

series record, NBA only, all rounds: 12-4 (.750)

And finally, the particular Game Five records in all situations, according to whowins.com?

  • Considering Site Order- 117-44 in favor of Golden State
  • Considering Win Order- 14-28 in favor of Memphis
  • Considering Both- 9-7 in favor of Golden State
Sample size also favors the Warriors. Any way you look at the probabilities, the Grizzlies have their hands full tonight against Golden State, who appear to have the window wide open for closing out this series and moving on to the Western Conference Finals. How can the Bears of Beale Street not only close that window some, but muddy up the view out of it? Three keys:

How the Grizzlies Counter the Warrior Counters- Make Curry Work

It has been a topic of conversation the past day or so, including on this site; how can Memphis make Golden State pay for the adjustments made to start Game Four? Klay Thompson defended Mike Conley, Harrison Barnes defended/fronted Zach Randolph, Draymond Green continued to defend Marc Gasol and Andrew Bogut allowed Tony Allen to shoot outside whenever he saw fit, leading to an early exit for "The Grindfather" in the first half and a jumbled/shook Grizzlies team.

TA's health (questionable with a hamstring injury as of this writing) bears watching and could change the scheme of Golden State, but assuming Allen can go there are several ways (in theory) Golden State can be exploited. Drive and kick penetration/more pick-and-roll sets with Allen as both the roll man and ball handler come to mind, as does more minutes for Jeff Green, who forces Golden State to defend more traditionally in terms of positions. Zach Randolph moving and receiving screens in the post would also help with the fronting issues.

The biggest possible adjustment? Make Golden State's prized possession, the 2014-2015 MVP Stephen Curry, work his tail off chasing around Courtney Lee. Lee showed in the Portland series his ability to not just get open on the perimeter, he was aggressive at the rim and was excellent off of screens. Lee is also 6'5, 200 pounds to Curry's (very generous listing of) 6'3, 190 pounds. Lee is bigger, likely stronger and able to exploit Curry some with physicality, potentially in the post. It is time for a Courtney Lee game, which could potentially limit the likelihood of an all-world Steph Curry game.

Jeff Green Game: Engage

The enigmatic, polarizing force that is Jeff Green is needed now more than ever. As stated previously, Green's presence forces Golden State to actually defend all five players on the floor and Jeff showed flashes of aggressiveness at the rim to the tune of 12 points on 8 shots in Game Four, an efficient outing scoring the rock. However, Green's defense on the perimeter continues to leave many Grizzlies' fans wanting and his playoff PER of 8.2 is the worst on the team. Worse than Nick Calathes (8.6), worse than Vince Carter (11.2). This simply cannot stand if Memphis hopes to buck trends and beat Golden State.

Courtney Lee and Jeff Green must be at their best for Memphis to pull the upset against Golden State.

Defensively Green cannot be a net negative. He must at least be a neutral force on that end of the floor by keeping his feet moving and not lunging out at shooters. On offense he has to get to the basket and the free throw line. If he does those things, the Grizzlies have a real chance to win. If he continues to struggle? It will be win or go home time Friday night in the FedEx Forum.

Early and Repeated Punches in the Mouth

Not literally, of course. The major way that Memphis took control of this series was through sheer physicality and tenacity. The race to loose/"50-50" balls, the gaining of extra possessions via steals, offensive rebounds and forced turnovers seemed to go the way of the Grizzlies in Games Two and Three but not in Games One and Four. The effort that it takes to overcome the talent differential between the Grizzlies and Warriors is substantial. It is fully possible that fatigue played a major factor in the result of Game Four, especially for Mike Conley who continues to play through a variety of ailments, not least of which is his broken face. A game less than 48 hours later after a cross-country flight likely does not make that much easier.

However, this is the playoffs and the great teams rise to these occasions, finding ways to win through sheer determination. The Grizzlies must dig deeper than they ever have before, attack every opportunity/possession with a violent enthusiasm and, to paraphrase former Grizzly Rudy Gay, "make their own luck." Greater talent can be overcome, but it takes Herculean effort. Golden State showed they can punch back and play Memphis' energetic/physical game. It's time for Memphis to get off the mat and retaliate.

The Prediction

We're due for a single possession game. All four games in this series so far have had final differentials of 15, 7, 10 and 17. Why should the Eastern Conference have all the late-game fun? While it is certainly possible/perhaps even likely that Golden State can and should win this game by double digits, if Memphis hopes to have a shot in the fourth quarter they must shove the Warriors back in to the mud for a full four quarters. It will take monstrous efforts on both ends of the court from the likes of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Courtney Lee and Mike Conley and probably the best game of the playoffs from Jeff Green, but Dave Joerger and his staff should have the Grizzlies ready to respond.

"Captain Clutch" and "Wendigo" will make key plays and appearances in the fourth quarter and the Memphis Grizzlies will flat-out steal Game Five in Oakland, leading to a potential series clincher Friday night in "The Grindhouse."

Memphis 93, Golden State 92

__________________________________________________________________________

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
WHAT: Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals. The series is tied 2-2
WHEN: 9:30 PM CT on TNT/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
WHERE: Oracle Arena in Oakland, California
WHY IT MATTERS: To take a commanding 3-2 series lead

INJURY REPORT-

Memphis: Tony Allen (Questionable, Hamstring)

Golden State: Ognjen Kuzmic (Questionable, Ankle), Marreese Speights (Out, Calf)

PROBABLE STARTERS FOR GAME FIVE-
Position Memphis Grizzlies (55-27, 5 Seed) Golden State Warriors (67-15, 1 seed)
Point Guard Mike Conley Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard Courtney Lee Klay Thompson
Small Forward Tony Allen Harrison Barnes
Power Forward Zach Randolph Draymond Green
Center Marc Gasol Andrew Bogut

For the Golden State perspective, visit Golden State Of Mind

Complete SB Nation Grizzlies vs. Warriors coverage

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