After a full week of rest, the Golden State Warriors finally came face-to-face with their Conference Semifinals opponent, our Memphis Grizzlies. To call the Grizzlies underdogs in this series would be, well, an understatement. For 99.9% of all NBA "experts", it isn’t a matter of whether or not Golden State will win the series, but just how many games it’s going to take. After the first 48 minutes of the series, Golden State is on their way to fulfilling those winning predictions by taking Game 1, 101-86.
Right from the get-go, the Warriors themselves seemed to be playing with that same cakewalk mentality. Without Mike Conley to defend, Golden State appeared lackadaisical on the defensive end as if it was just another day in the office. But combined with their usual offensive firepower, Golden State still ran away with the lead and held it the rest of the way.
Obviously the Grizzlies don’t have the luxury of simply showing up and expecting to win, but even with strong motivation, their defense couldn’t find answers early on. In particular it was Draymond Green who took control and led the Warriors to a 32-25 lead off his 11 points. That mismatch at the power forward position benefited both teams offensively, as Zach Randolph was also able to make a strong showing throughout the first half. In the first quarter alone, Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 5 of 7 shooting. While Golden State was able to spread the floor and score in a number of areas, Memphis’ point production was limited primarily to the frontcourt.
During the second quarter the teams adopted a much more back-and-forth style of play, scoring with ease on nearly every possession. Two players who typically lead the way for Golden State were almost completely silent up through 4 minutes into the 2nd quarter, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had just 6 points combined up until then. The Warriors found other ways to score and Mo Speights kept pushing the Warriors on a 13-4 run as Memphis’ shooters cooled down. He would finish with 10 points, all within the team’s 2nd and 3rd quarter run.
It was almost entirely from Tony Allen’s efforts that the Grizzlies managed to fight off a potential first half blowout and rally back to an eight point deficit. That is, until Steph Curry woke up and hit back-to-back three’s to close the half 61-52 in Golden State’s favor.
Dude, Where's Our Offense?
The Warriors continued their hot streak with an 11-4 run out of the half. That was mostly due to defensive mishaps by one team and the Splash Brothers scoring for the other. The consistent positive in Memphis’ favor was how its frontcourt continued to show its offensive strength. Along with Tony Allen, Z-Bo and Marc combined for 12 of Memphis’ whopping 14 (!!!) 3rd quarter points. The frontcourt became even more of an opening to exploit after Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut picked up their 4th personal fouls. But Memphis just couldn’t hold off the inevitable explosion from Curry and Thompson, who finished with 22 and 18, respectively. It was a bit of a change from the first half as Memphis started to come up with a decent number of defensive stops but couldn’t capitalize on them (34 total second half points vs. 52 in the first half).
A Silver Lining and Look Ahead
A minor highlight was HCDJ’s on-the-fly, late game lineup adjustments when he chose not to send out a true point guard. Instead it was a Lee, Allen, Green, Z-Bo, and Gasol lineup that took the court during the game’s waning moments. Without Mike Conley this might be the best option Memphis has in terms of finding sources of offensive production while also maintaining an adequate defense.
All in all, this Game 1 turned into another dominant home showing by the Golden State Warriors, who capped off the victory 101-86. As expected, Curry and Thompson finished as the Warriors’ top scorers while for Memphis it was Randolph and Gasol. The backcourt vs. frontcourt source of leading scorers is just another stark and very obvious example of the major differences between the Grizzlies and Warriors. Major adjustments and perhaps a bit of luck will be needed to account for some of those differences and close the gap. Game 2 is Tuesday at 9:30 PM in Oakland.