Who- Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
What- Game Two of the Western Conference Semi-Finals
When- 9:30 PM CT on TNT/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Where- Oracle Arena in Oakland, California
Why- Avoid a 2-0 hole at the hands of the Warriors
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Probable, Facial Fractures)
GOLDEN STATE- Ognjen Kuzmic (Doubtful, Ankle)
For the Golden State perspective, check out Golden State Of Mind
The Memphis Grizzlies knew they had their hands full heading into their series with the Golden State Warriors. After Game One, they knew just how tough it was going to be and then some. Golden State had contributions from key role players like Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes in addition to the combined 40 points from newly crowned MVP Stephen Curry and his "Splash Brother" counterpart Klay Thompson. Memphis turned the ball over far too often and struggled to slow the offensive monster that is this Warriors team, and if the Grizzlies cannot score more than 86 points in a game against Golden State, this series may end by Monday in Memphis.
The good news for the Grizzlies? Their captain and (arguably) their most important player Mike Conley returns to add some offensive pop and energy to a roster that could desperately use it. His reinsertion in the lineup allows for players like Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes to return to roles more suitable for their skill sets, and for some of the burden to be taken off of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
But just how effective will Conley be? This is one of the key questions heading into tonight's late tip in Oakland. Conley has complained about bright light and loud sounds bothering him in recent days, and while he must be feeling better in order to try to play, he cannot possibly be 100 percent, especially considering he still has a foot issue that he is dealing with. Pain tolerance is clearly not a problem for Conley, but at the same time he is only a mere mortal. Can he power through not one, but two (!!!!) serious injuries to lead Memphis to a win in a place where the Warriors have only lost twice all year?
He will need help from his friends. Three keys:
- Move Your Body and the Ball Toward the Rim- The Grizzlies cannot rely on the Z-Bo/Gasol iso/pick-and-roll over and over and expect to score enough to beat Golden State. They must run off of screens and on the baseline, finding cutting lanes to the rim. Hitting early perimeter shots will help in this pursuit (hello Conley/Courtney Lee) but Memphis must make the effort to take back the paint.
- Z-Bo the Garbage Man- Speaking of Zach, too often in Game One he was reliant on long, drawn out drives at the rim and was out of position to do what he is arguably better at than anyone in the NBA: attack the glass on the offensive side of the floor. The Grizzlies could use every extra opportunity they can get, and Z-Bo will have to lead the charge on this end (along with the above-average wing rebounder Tony Alen).
- Limit the Role Players- Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are terrific. They are likely to score, and score efficiently. Containing them has to be a goal, but stopping them is unlikely. Controlling the outputs of guys like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Marreese Speights is more of a workable goal. Those three players combined for 37 points on 13-21 (or 61.9%) shooting along with 13 rebounds. That cannot happen if Memphis hopes to pull the upset.
It is a tall task in front of the Grizzlies. If they control Golden State's role players and get extra opportunities to score the ball/protect the ball itself, they have a chance to be in the game in the fourth quarter, and that is all that can be asked given the circumstances.
Hopefully the return of "Captain Clutch" can bring about a big-time upset win ahead of the team's return to Memphis and the friendlier confines of the FedEx Forum this weekend.