WHAT: 2022 NBA Playoffs - Western Conference 2nd Round Game 2
WHEN: 8:30 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
BETTING INFORMATION (per DraftKings): Golden State (-2, -110), Memphis (+2, -110). ML - Golden State (-130), Memphis (+110). O/U at 227.5 (-110)
MEMPHIS: Desmond Bane (Questionable, back), Ziaire Williams (Questionable, knee), Steven Adams (Out, Health & Safety Protocols), Santi Aldama (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, back)
GOLDEN STATE: Andre Iguodala (Out, neck), James Wiseman (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman
GOLDEN STATE: Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green
Similar to Round One, the Memphis Grizzlies find themselves down 0-1 in a series. Things sure do feel a whole lot different this time around. Things felt bleak after the Timberwolves came into Memphis and defeated the Grizzlies 130-117. The Grizzlies may have lost 117-116 to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, but there are plenty of positives to take away despite the loss.
There was a short turnaround from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, but the Grizzlies gameplan against Golden State worked throughout most of the game with some things to be cleaned up for sure. Jaren Jackson had his second consecutive great game, scoring a playoff career high 33 points on 6-9 shooting from deep. Between JJJ and Ja, the Warriors don’t have a ton of answers defensively to slow the duo down. They’ll need more help from the DB’s on the team, though, as both Dillon (3-13 from the field) and Desmond Bane (3-10 from the field) struggled offensively. Draymond Green was ejected, and for the first time really all postseason, were able to play their style of game. NBA Twitter argued about a “fix” with the Grizzlies getting the benefit of the whistle with Golden State racking up 25 fouls to Memphis’ 19. Memphis also shot 4 more free throws in Game One. Some calls favored Memphis, but for the most part the officials just let the two teams play, a welcomed sight after the Timberwolves series.
The Grizzlies, underdogs in the series despite a 3-1 season series win over the Warriors and finishing the regular season with the second best record in the NBA, still have plenty to do to even up the series. Here are a couple major keys to Game Two.
Crash the Poole Party
Steve Kerr made the decision to change his starting 5 in Game One replacing Jordan Poole with Gary Payton II, a strategic move to get their defensive ace on Ja early and often. It didn’t quite go to plan, as Ja finished with 34 points on the night and scored Memphis’ first 8 points. The move also got Poole off to a slow start. In lineups with Steph and Klay, Poole is the 3rd option and usually creates mismatches as the defensive focuses more on the Splash Brothers. Coming off the bench, the Grizzlies were able to prioritize slowing Poole down more, daring guys like Otto Porter Jr. and Jonathan Kuminga to beat you. Kerr quickly made the adjustment and featured the Warriors hot shooting trio together for most of the second half. Poole finished with 31 points off the bench to go along with 8 rebounds and 9 assists.
Steph and Klay combined to shoot 14-39 from the field and 8-22 from beyond the arc. While the duo is likely not to shoot that poorly together again all series, the Grizzlies can mitigate that damage if they can do a better job of containing Jordan Poole. We’ll see tonight if Kerr goes back to starting Poole or bringing him off the bench, but the Grizzlies wings will need to be locked in defensively and stick with the young guard.
Communication in Chaos
The Warriors pass-happy offense with a ton of off ball movement is difficult to defend against. You need to communicate switches and screens while chasing multiple guys around the court. Talking with your teammates can help limit easy opportunities for the opponent. Unfortunately for Memphis, a couple of defensive miscues cost them in the final minutes of the game.
Communication isn’t necessarily to blame in the clip below, but the Warriors come away with the 50-50 ball and easy dunk. JJJ doesn’t do a great job of boxing out Wiggins, allowing him to impact the rebound — despite him, BC, and Ja at the rim to get the board. Ja narrowly loses the battle with Payton II to get the ball, with JJJ kind of stuck going for the ball and stepping back to protect the rim. He probably doesn’t realize Brandon Clarke has fallen to the ground and is expecting him to be at the rim. Dillon Brooks, having made numerous hustle plays prior, doesn’t really get involved in the play instead trying to leak out for the fast break layup with only Steph (and his 5 fouls) in between him and the basket. This leaves Desmond Bane late leaving Klay Thompson to try and disrupt Wiggins dunk. You can see BC and Ja talking about the defensive coverage after the play.
In playoff basketball, plays like this happen where one team gets a good look off of winning a 50-50 ball. A play you ultimately live with, despite how much the easy look late in the game hurts. The next Warriors points, however, show the Grizzlies youth in the playoffs. The play below is painful because simple communication likely results in a different outcome and a potential Memphis win. Both Ja and BC get caught ball watching a little bit, leading to an easy layup for Gary Payton II. It appears Ja’s man is Jordan Poole, while Brandon Clarke is tasked with Payton II. Watching Steph allowed GPII to sneak back door before either BC or Ja could recover. After the play you can see Ja and BC discussing defensive coverages again.
The Grizzlies spent a decent bit of time after made Warriors baskets and heading into timeouts discussing defensive coverages and making sure everyone understood their assignments. An extra day of film and practice will likely help the team avoid the same mistakes that hurt them late in Game One.
Betting Outlook and Predictions
There are a few other minor adjustments for the Grizzlies to make. The rotations, and who plays, should be evaluated. Melton should continue to see an increased role this series, while Xavier Tillman should not.
The books still like the Warriors, unsurprisingly, but that Memphis money line looks enticing. I know Memphis just covered in a loss, but typically with the free throw chess late in the game, I’d expect either team to win by two or three possessions. I think Memphis responds well to the Game One loss and sends the series to Golden State tied 1-1.
Memphis 120, Golden State 115