It is time for another installment of Five Questions! Today we are chatting with Daniel Hardee of Golden State of Mind, SB Nation’s Golden State Warriors blog, about tonight’s big game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
- If you had to pick a team with the best chance of upsetting the Warriors in the West, who would it be and why?
Hmm. We at GSoM normally don't visualize defeat, but this is a great question. I thought about the Rockets (inconsistent defense) and OKC (not enough depth) before settling on the San Antonio Spurs. They clearly understand the philosophies and tendencies of our system, and have had decent success during the regular season forcing us into uncomfortable positions. They were the first team I recall to use the "switching" defensive strategy extensively on the Warriors in attempts to neutralize all the off ball movement and pick and rolls.
Coach Gregg Popovich stresses upon his team to quickly lock on to the Dubs shooters in transition, limiting the opportunities for the Warrior's signature back breaking three point flurries. The Spurs are re-tooling their roster with athletic, versatile, long players around the super soldier that is Kawhi Leonard. "The Klaw", Rudy Gay, and Dejounte Murray provide troublesome puzzles both offensively and defensively out on the perimeter. LaMarcus Aldridge has shown (unsustained) flashes of being a difficult low post matchup for everyone on our team not named Draymond Green. They have the pieces and intel to be problematic for the champs.
2. These Grizzlies look very different than the team that went 2-2 against Golden State last season. What intrigues you most about our new squad?
I am really curious as to the new pace-and-space identity of your team. It is bittersweet that Grit-N-Grind walked out the door with Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. We always circled Memphis games on the schedules as potentially scary because of the physicality and nastiness those two played with. As evidenced by those two times your team kicked our butt last season, Memphis' bullying style made a great contrast to our speedy Air Raids.
From what I saw in your Opening Night destruction of the New Orleans Pelicans, the bully has been replaced by the bombs. The Grizz were firing up shots from everywhere behind the arc! Gasol even hit one from Steph’s range! I was startled by the confidence and eagerness for which your team is hunting for the quickest, best three point attempt. I did a little research on Basketball Reference and noticed that the Grizz were 14th in the league in 3PA last year, up from 25th the year before. Clearly, Mike Conley and Gasol still anchor the team and provide sagacious stability. However, now there's a fluidity and unpredictably to the offense that is a pleasant surprise.
3. Is there any part of the Warriors’ roster that concerns you?
DISCLAIMER: This is the deepest, smartest, most unselfish iteration of our team in franchise history. We as Warriors fans are overjoyed with the weapons we already have. BUT, if we're just being nitpicky...
I do wish we had a big man who could consistently create his own shot. Sometimes, with the shot clock running down, the ball gets dumped down to one of our startled post players like Javale McGee or Zaza Pachulia. I'm always mentally prepared for the shot to clang harmlessly off of the rim, and if it does somehow go in, it's a bonus.
I occasionally fawn enviously over Gasol's beautiful blend of craft and force on the block. You are very fortunate to enjoy such tremendous post play in recent years. It's probably WAY out of the question for Warriors GM Bob Myers to convince Gasol to take the veteran minimum's in 2020 to chase a ring, right?
4. In your opinion, who is the most important player to the Warriors’ title hopes?
Wardell Stephen "Unanimous" Curry II. Think about it: The Warriors are feared for their avalanche-esque offensive attack led by accurate three point shooting. The entire league (including your Grizz it would appear) are desperately trying to emulate that strategy to keep from being crushed. Well, Steph is the emperor of overwhelming three point shooting.
Steph's high level IQ and shooting ability turns him into a basketball death computer that unlocks the highest power of the Warriors offensive prowess. Defenders can never leave him alone, and they have to bend their positions to attempt thwarting the 2 time MVP. Sometimes, that even means stretching the defense all the way out to half court. This leaves gaping spaces in the defensive shell which are exacerbated by Steph's constant motion.
Fatigue grows, miscommunication and missteps abound, and soon the other Warriors feast on the easiest shots they'll ever see. Defenses have to choose: do they forego help defense and let Steph humiliate them with his offensive barrages? Or do they blatantly double team him and watch him calmly dump a pass to one of three other all-stars who can either finish or keep the ball moving? Talk about pick your poison.
Unanimous’ flammability and unselfishness create a deadly conundrum for which there is no answer, no imitation, and no end in sight.
5. Give me your official game prediction
Trap game for the Dubs. Grizzlies will be at home and well rested after two off days following their beat down of the Pellies. The Grindhouse is always a tough place to play for the champs, and fatigue could be a factor as this is the second night of a back to back for us. I expect your role players to play inspired in front of a frothing home crowd. This will be a wild up and down shootout with highlight dunks and daring treys.
Fair warning though: getting into a shoot out with the Warriors is like swimming in the deep ocean during a raging storm. My prediction: The Grizzlies will be lured deep into the high tempo pace, further and further from the familiar shores of Grit and Grind, before succumbing to the relentless waves of Splash. Dubs 126- Grizz 107.
A big thanks to Golden State of Mind, go check out their site and see the great job they do!!