WHAT: 2022 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference Semifinals Game 5 (Warriors lead series 3-1)
WHEN: 8:30 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/92.9 FM ESPN MEMPHIS
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee), Santi Aldama (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, back)
GOLDEN STATE: Andre Iguodala (Out, back), James Wiseman (Out, knee), Gary Payton II (Out, elbow)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
GOLDEN STATE: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Draymond Green
BETTING INFORMATION (Per DraftKings): Golden State -4 (Memphis +4) O/U 218.5. Moneyline - Warriors -170 to win, Memphis +150
It is natural for Memphis Grizzlies fans to feel as if the end of the season is a foregone conclusion after the way Game 4 ended. For 47 minutes and 15 seconds, the bears of Beale Street were able to hold off the mighty Golden State Warriors. Then, in the final minute of the game, everything fell apart. Steph Curry and Draymond Green made plays that future Hall of Famers make. Memphis realized by experience that the mistakes of the Minnesota Timberwolves would not be made by these Warriors. And the Grizzlies were the young team watching a lead slip through their fingers - and now, their entire 2021-2022 campaign hangs in the balance.
The good news? Memphis was leading for 47 minutes and 15 seconds of Game 4, at Golden State. The Grizzlies lost by one in Game 1 to the Warriors and beat Golden State in Game 2 - both contests being played at home. The Game 3 whooping at the hands of the Warriors is the outlier in this series - the majority of the games have been close. With Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, and the crew back on Beale Street at FedExForum for Game 5, hope to get the series back to Golden State should be strong. The Warriors are rightfully favored - Golden State will be motivated to end the series tonight. But the Grizzlies do not seem like the types to go gentle in to that good night.
Memphis, it’s time to rage against the dying of the light once more and believe in the improbable becoming a little more possible once the final horn sounds.
One step at a time. Here are some ways to get there.
Level up the size advantage
Through four games, one fundamental area in which the Memphis Grizzlies possess the upper hand over the Golden State Warriors is size. From Kyle Anderson, to Jaren Jackson Jr., to Steven Adams, the Warriors are incapable of defending the front court of the Memphis Grizzlies when it features those players. Jaren is the most unguardable of the three - the efficiency of his scoring (21 points on 21 shots) in Game 4 does not tell the story of what Jackson Jr. was able to do to Golden State. Even Draymond Green admitted on his podcast that Jaren could not be stopped by the Warriors in Game 4.
Kyle Anderson (7-8 from the floor) and Steven Adams (5-9) were also able to have their way in the paint and at the rim. The biggest Warriors player currently active in this series is Kevon Looney at 6’9”. That’s the height of Kyle Anderson, who can theoretically play the “3” position alongside Jackson Jr. and Adams as he has done in the past as part of a supersized Grizzlies lineup next to “point guard” Desmond Bane and “2” guard Dillon Brooks. 6’5” 215 pound Desmond Bane is the smallest player on the floor for Memphis in such a 5-man grouping.
Yes, shooting is a concern, as is handling the ball and avoiding turnovers. No, you do not abandon Tyus Jones - he still starts. Nor do you leave behind De’Anthony Melton, or Brandon Clarke. The way the team had defended previously, it’d be foolish to completely abandon rotation patterns. This changeup would just be a way to amplify what Memphis did in Game 4 to slow the game and throw off the rhythm of the Warriors. Ziaire Williams can obviously fit the mold of this idea as well - he can play the “2”, “3”, or “4” with his frame. The key is finding ways to level up position wise in terms of size, which holds tremendous value potentially if the goal is to continue to try to muck up and muddy the Golden State system.
The Grizzlies found something that clicked for much of Game 4. And they can still turn that advantage up if they choose to. Mash them.
Get the role players going
In Game 2 - the lone victory for Memphis in this series so far - Ja Morant went absolutely nuts. He scored 47 points, 15 of them being the final scores for the Grizzlies in the contest. Steph Curry did something similar to Memphis in Game 4 - he scored 18 points in the 4th quarter to will the Warriors to a win. But it was fun to see a Memphis Grizzlies player be able to do something comparable to what a future Hall of Famer in Curry is capable of.
Unfortunately, Ja is not walking through that door in uniform tonight. He’s out due to the bone bruise in his knee that has likely ended his season, regardless of when it ends for Memphis.
Desmond Bane is still not quite himself due to his back injury. Jaren Jackson Jr. will almost certainly be a larger part of Golden State’s defensive game plan in Game 5. With both those two weapons potentially being limited by the opponent/health, the Grizzlies have to find ways to make sure that they can get production from multiple sources. Dillon Brooks’ offensive showing was nightmarish for stretches in Game 4, especially in the 4th quarter. De’Anthony Melton, who had issues in Game 4 himself and only played 9 minutes, was scoreless. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke were efficient, but neither took their scoring and translated it in to increased usage/opportunity to produce points.
Being at home, role players usually perform better. Prioritizing that early in the game - getting Brooks early looks at the rim and in his spots in the mid-range (he will likely be left open), having Melton come off screens, kicking to Ziaire in the corner or letting Clarke work on an undersized defender in the high post - will make for better confidence come winning time later in the contest. Jaren and Desmond cannot do it alone. And while Adams and Anderson were strong in Game 4, their level of efficiency when matched with volume is likely going to be hard to replicate. More must come from the other guys if the Grizzlies want their season to continue.
The Golden State Warriors are a veteran team with a splash of youth in Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga. Those two players are key to the Warriors (especially Poole), but make no mistake - Golden State is driven specifically by elder statesmen Steph Curry and Draymond Green, and to a lesser extent Klay Thompson (6-20 in Game 4, outside of Game 3’s avalanche has shot ineffectively). They want this series to end now, since the Dallas/Phoenix series will at least go 6. More rest for weary legs and bones, more chance for Golden State to be at their best for this chance at a title. They will be ready to play.
The Warriors winning this series is the logical conclusion at this stage. But in two games at FedExForum, the Grizzlies either won or had a chance to win late. That held true in Game 4 on the road as well, without Ja Morant, as the Grizzlies were more sound defensively and if not for poor decision making and missed free throws would be looking at an even series right now instead of the do or die 3-1 disadvantage. Memphis is not as far off as perhaps it feels at times. Combining the size advantage that coincides with the return of Adams with the energy that should be present in FedExForum, the opportunity for the Grizzlies to survive and advance to a Game 6 is there.
What do we say to the NBA gods of death from the Bay?
Memphis 108, Golden State 104