Now that everyone has had a few days to process what was at worst the second best win in Memphis Grizzlies' playoff history (hello Game Six win against the San Antonio Spurs in 2011) it is time for an actual basketball game to once again dominate the day. The Western Conference Semifinal series between the Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors now shifts to Memphis, where the "Grindhouse" that is the FedExForum should be extra riled up for a pivotal game in what has now essentially become a best-of-five stretch of games after the split out in Oakland.
Winning game two was great because it gave the Grizzlies a fighting chance to finish this thing in six games if they manage to hold on to their new found home-court advantage. A Warriors win tonight means that game, that amazing Mike Conley return and Tony Allen performance, were essentially for nothing with regard to Memphis possibly shocking the basketball world and moving on the the Western Conference Finals.
One foot in front of the other though, and before Memphis gets too far ahead of itself it must make Golden State pay for losing on their home court in regulation for the first time in months. The Warriors are still the same team that won 67 regular season games though, and despite the Grizzlies' Game Two victory Golden State is still favored in this contest. Memphis must play just as well, if not better, than they did on Tuesday if they hope to take a 2-1 series lead.
How do they do it? Three keys:
Make Draymond Feel Dirty
It's been a focus of conversation literally for days in the mid-south, including on GBBLive this week; was Draymond Green's play on Mike Conley in Game Two "dirty?" The bottom line, however, is he will be the subject of intense ridicule regardless of right or wrong from GrizzNation tonight every time he touches the ball/gets involved in a play or call. This intensity is a good and bad thing; on one hand, it could serve as motivation to attack Memphis that much harder and impact the game that much more. On the other hand, the energy of the FedEx Forum (more on this in a moment) should be enough to carry the Grizzlies in terms of effort to respond to Green's aggressiveness.
Draymond is extremely important to Golden State's offense; in wins this season he shot 46.1% from the field overall and 36.1% from three point land. In losses? 37.1% from the field, 21.2% from three. Whether it is through foul trouble, keeping him off the glass (9 rebounds in Game One, 3 in Game Two) or forcing him to beat you from range, Draymond Green is a player who must continue to feel as uncomfortable as possible so that he is not able to supplement the scoring output of a Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson.
Oh Wendigo My Wendigo
Marc Gasol has quietly played a steady series so far, especially when it comes to getting to the free throw line and converting(16 of 18 through two games.) The man lovingly referred to as "Wendigo" has yet to truly have a monstrous stat line, however, focusing more on defensive rotations and rim protection than offensive production. Defense must continue to be the calling card of these Grizzlies for Memphis to advance, but it is unrealistic to expect for Mike Conley to continue to shoot 67% from the floor like he did in Game Two. More offense is needed.
Marc is going to have to step up on that end some. It isn't about asking him to be "Superman"; it's about him finding a good blend of defensive stopper and offensive force. Marc has taken 20 shots to Zach Randolph's 31 through two games; that number needs to be more balanced (with Gasol taking more eventually) so that Marc can be more engaged offensively and Zach can be in position to play the offensive glass, a strength of his game. Especially considering Gasol so far has been defended by smaller players like Draymond Green and even Harrison Barnes, that match-up needs to be taken advantage of more often.
Don't Blow It All Early
The FedEx Forum is going to be...um...intense...on Saturday night. The Grizzlies' events crew has yet again done an amazing job hyping this game, between waving "Memphis vs. Errrbody" Growl Towels and Mike Conley face mask giveaways. Fans will have had literally over 90 hours to salivate over and focus on the big Game Three, and with an afternoon and evening to spend out on Beale Street before the 7:00 PM CT tip the crowd is only going to be that much more raucous. This should benefit the Grizzlies, especially on their way to a (hopefully) fast start.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that Golden State is going to punch back. It is very unlikely that the Warriors just lie down, and Golden State's Head Coach Steve Kerr and his staff will undoubtedly have their team ready to survive the early wave of energy and counter from there. Memphis cannot lose that early intensity or lose their composure due to the crowd/energy of the Forum. It is a 48 minute game, and the Grizzlies would be wise to not overdo it in the first quarter. Keep the fans involved, jump out early, grow the lead organically without forcing things through offensive and defensive execution. There is such a thing as being too hyped up, and if that happens Golden State has the talent to make Memphis and its fans pay.
Memphis will be the center of the NBA universe this evening. For the Grizzlies to take a 2-1 series lead in front of an ABC national audience, they have to continue to do what they did in Game Two in Oakland; make Thompson and Curry work for their shots, force role players to beat you and allow for Mike Conley to lead/run the show. The execution of scheme was so much more crisp with Conley on the floor; if the Grizzlies want to really start to make the Warriors doubt themselves, they must show that it was not an "one-night only" performance. Consistency must rule the day.
Behind an amazing crowd and a huge performance from Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies will jump out early on the Golden State Warriors, holding on late thanks to clutch play making from Mike Conley and defense from Tony Allen on their way to a 2-1 series lead.
Memphis 98, Golden State 94
Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
What: Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals
When: 7:00 PM CT on ABC/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Where: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
Why it Matters: The Grizzlies look to hold on to home-court advantage in the series.
GOLDEN STATE: Ognjen Kuzmic (Questionable, Ankle)
|Probable Starter Position||Memphis Grizzlies||Golden State Warriors|
|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, check out Golden State Of Mind