In Game 4, the Golden State Warriors handily dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies by a 101-84 final score. Steve Kerr's decision to assign Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen defensively was key in the win, allowing Bogut to help off liberally and muck up the Grizzlies offense. To break down what the next move might be, I roped in some GBB friends, Andrew Ford and Matt Hrdlicka.
Kevin Yeung (@KevinHFY): It seems like an obvious adjustment now, but putting his rim protector on Tony Allen was a ballsy move from Steve Kerr. Allen was helpless even when not defended, and it quickly became a hockey power-play situation on that end of the floor as Andrew Bogut had free rein to load up on other scoring threats.
So what do the Grizzlies do? They were completely stymied in Game 4, losing in a blowout, and answers to the Bogut-on-Allen conundrum are difficult to find. It’spaint-packing again, but the Grizzlies have to balance floor spacing with enough defense to ground Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. I’ll turn it over to start – do you guys have any ideas?
Andrew Ford (@AndrewFord22): As the first counter measure, the Grizzlies should try to play to Tony Allen’s few offensive strengths. Allow him to sit in the weak side corner and cut to the rim at will while Marc Gasol drops dimes from the elbow. Of course, Tony would still have to make the layup, which he’s proven over and over is no easy task for him. Plus, account for the fact that if his man is sagging around the paint like he did in Game 4, Allen will certainly be challenged by at least one player at the rim. That’s a problem, but it’s still worth a shot. If Gasol’s defender or Zach Randolph’s defender turns his head and overplays Tony Allen, the Grindfather can also execute a simple dump-off pass for an easy bucket.
One strategy isn’t going to break the Warriors defensive shell unfortunately. Dave Joerger might think about attempting some pick & rolls involving Allen as the roll man. It’s not a role he’s particularly familiar with, but it could work. At the very least, it should draw Bogut (assuming he guards Allen and there isn’t a switch on the play) away from the rim some in order to keep Conley from killing the Warriors with uncontested jumpers. Bogut away from the rim could allow for quick ball reversal and a cleaner post entry pass to one of the Grizzlies bigs. The play would have to develop quickly once the ball enters the post, which is doable for several plays a game.
Whatever the Grizzlies do, they can’t have Allen riding the bench most of the night. They need him on the court to hound either Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, because the Grizzlies don’t have enough defensive firepower to slow down the Warriors offense without him. I think for short stretches, the Grizzlies can go with Courtney Leeand Jeff Green on Thompson. They aren’t long-term solutions, but they might be enough of a patch on defense to mitigate Allen not being out there as much while providing far more than Allen offensively.
KY: Forcing Bogut to react is a good shot, but as long as he’s in the paint or can sag back, I don’t know that the Grizzlies can generate anything better than contested layups or midrange looks. Like, even if Allen plays the role of cutter, in the end he has to come crashing into the paint and Bogut will be there to bother and contest as Bogut does. It’d be interesting to see what a Conley-Allen pick-and-roll could do, and if Bogut sags back to cede the long two, the Grizzlies could pull that pick-and-roll a few feet above the three-point line to give Conley some momentum as he drives. My reservations: a backcourt pick-and-roll leaves two big guys inside of the arc, meaning you have two defenders within help range and a kick-out to Gasol or Randolph in midrange probably isn’t exploitable.
You could have Allen set pin-downs or back-screens to free shooters up, stuff that negates the problem of Bogut overloading the paint. Either make Bogut help the perimeter and draw him away from something like a pick-and-roll elsewhere, and let somebody like Courtney Lee curl into an open jumper while Allen screens his man. Even that can be a bit restricting, forcing the Grizzlies to run specific sets outside of their bread-and-butter, but it puts some pressure on Bogut.
Matt Hrdlicka (@theRealHrdlicka): What a ballsy move by Kerr! Nobody saw this coming. Everybody talked about GSW going super small, or switching Curry onto Allen.
Putting Bogut onto Allen allows Bogut to roam and double any Grizzlies paint catch.
While this was a great adjustment, the game didn’t get away from Memphis until the 2nd quarter. Conley seemed to tire, and the bench, playing from behind, just couldn’t match GSW.
I want to make Conley’s life easier and use TA when he’s on the court. The easiest way to do this is to set the high screen that Kevin mentioned and give Conley a running start to the rim. If GSW wants to play three on two in the paint, then make them play two on one up high.
It would be impossible to expect TA to pick up the nuances of diving to the rim from the top of the key, and even more impossible to expect him to make good decisions once he’s out there, but all we’re trying to do is keep Bogut honest.
AF: I like the idea of setting pin-down screens to free up shooters, but even then there is a high probability of the Grizzlies taking a long two off of that action once again. I do think the Grizzlies have to get more into their flex (screen the screener) action with Lee on the baseline popping out to the top of the key and working in tandem with either Gasol or Randolph. That’s something the Grizzlies haven’t leaned on enough in either series.
A big key will also be which Golden State bigs show up? Will it be the stretch bigs who killed the Grizzlies in Game 4, or will it be the big who the Grizzlies stymied in Games 2 and 3. A huge key, as usual, will be Z-Bo’s pick & roll defense. Can he contain enough to get Draymond Green off his game, or will he have to just pray he misses open jumpers?
MH: One other thing we should mention: this is only a big problem when Bogut and Allen share the court. Bogut is so smart with positioning and help, he becomes a gigantic free safety guarding the rim.
Perhaps the easiest way to eliminate Bogut is to just try to get him in foul trouble. Easier said than done.
AF: As Matt alluded to, a huge key for the next game will be health. We still don’t know how much Tony Allen will be bothered by his sore hamstring, but it bothered him enough to where he played just 16 minutes in Game 4. As for Conley, it’s concerning that he seems to run out of gas earlier in each game as the series progresses. He’s a tough dude and he’s fighting his tail off, but he’s still human. It’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank and what that means for the Grizzlies on both ends.
Conley has been tremendous on both ends of the floor. Tony Allen is great, but he doesn’t fight through screens quite like Conley because he can’t make himself as small as Conley can to slide around quickly, and on offense Conley is obviously the straw that stirs the drink. Without him, the Grizzlies are forced to try to play matchups with Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes, and that probably won’t end well.
KY: Draymond Green shot something like 33% on open/wide open threes in the regular season! As far as pick your poison goes, I’m willing to let Draymond kill us.
Speaking of Nick Calathes, I wonder if Dave Joerger will give the Calathes-Conley lineups a look. It’s really scraping the barrel, but in the absence of a superior 3-and-D guy that can put on a Tony Allen facade on one end and avoid being neglected on the other end, Calathes may be a poor man’s option. He’s pesky defensively, hopefully enough to bother Curry and Thompson, and he can command some defensive attention with the ball in his hands — the Warriors might not want Bogut guarding a lead ball-handler.
In the very likely event that doesn’t work out, the mad scientist in me wants to see a reprisal of last year’s five-smalls lineup against the Thunder. Conley-Udrih-Lee-Allen-Carter!
AF: Draymond Green might not be a stellar three-point shooter, but unlike Tony Allen he can hurt the Grizzlies if left open as he’s proven in this series. I’m willing to let Green beat us on rolls to the rim, but I don’t think you can allow him to knock down two, three, or four threes given all the other shooters the Warriors have. We all know the Grizzlies aren’t much of a three-point shooting team, so I don’t know how much they really want to get into a battle of math because three will always be greater than two. To me, the Grizzlies want to continuously run the Warriors off the three-point line first and foremost. It won’t solve all the issues, but I think it helps to even the playing field. We will probably continue to see a lot of strong overloads by the Grizzlies and hard closeouts on skip passes to the opposite wing. The Grizzlies seem content to let guys drive and test their luck at the rim against Gasol and Randolph, and that’s the right move in my opinion.
Calathes is intriguing, because like you said Kevin, he isn’t a complete offensive liability like Allen. He can serve as the primary ball handler, and I highly doubt the Warriors would have Bogut chasing him all over the floor like a mad man. Spacing issues do remain with Calathes in the game too though, and Joerger knows that. The Warriors might not put Bogut on him, but they will not be shy to sag off of him and give him lots of room to make him beat them with jumpers.
The small ball lineup would be fun at the least. It’s worth trying if none of the other options we discussed seem to be working by the end of the first half. The biggest problem would likely be rebounding. Green and Bogut among other bigs could easily eat up the small lineup on the offensive boards, and that would force Joerger to revert to a more traditional lineup rather quickly.
Also, when David Lee is in the game, assuming he plays double digit minutes again the Grizzlies should attack him much more one-on-one than they did in Game 4. He should not score as many or more points than he’s giving up given his atrocious defense, especially going against a guy like Randolph who should be able to manhandle him. We’ve seen it happen before, and we should see it more in this series if Lee continues to play.