If game one was any indication of what series will be between the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors, one things for certain - hard work and taking care of possessions showed us that. These two teams are so talented that it could come down to one or two possessions down the stretch.
To get Grizzlies fans prepared for a highly entertaining game two tonight at FedEx Forum, I sat down with Duby Dub Dubs of DubNationHQ.com to preview tonight’s huge game two.
1.) Game ones tend to be the “feel out” game of the series, and from there it’s chess moves from both sides. Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr started Gary Payton II in Game One. The first potential chess move of a long series. Initially what was the reaction to the starting five change, and how did that slow down Memphis in game one?
I called my preview Asymetrical Warfare because one of the defining features of this season’s Golden State Warriors team is that they’re leaning into their strengths rather than trying to adjust too much to their opponents. Ever since it became clear that the Warriors would be heading into this season without a traditional big center, it was a clear strategy. Against the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic, we got to see a proof of concept. Even against classic bigs, the Warriors roster can still come out ahead...
It’s something we’ve seen in every playoffs since the Warriors started winning them: a pivot to a smaller crew. And it’s not a weakness, in fact, it is the opposite. And because of how the Warriors built this roster, it’s sort of the only option. Playing Nemanja Bjelica big minutes just isn’t a good option. So, I don’t think there were many surprised fans in Dub Nation, especially given the stellar play of Gary Payton. I’d bet that the Grizzlies go back to their cupboard and have a fresh look at their options, because that double-bigs lineup that started last game wasn’t able to create any sort of advantage.
2.) Jordan Poole played a huge role in the Warriors game one win over Memphis. From an outsiders standpoint, Poole plays a similar role that Desmond Bane plays with Memphis. Two athletic guards that can create at all three levels, and off the dribble. Was Poole’s emergence this season a shock to the fan base? Or was this something that had been brewing with his development?
Well, I think it’s a bit of both. You could for sure see it coming given his play last season, but Poole has taken a series of huge leaps over the course of this season. Pulling back the lens a bit, he’s looking like the critical missing element in the ongoing Warriors “bridge to the future” plan. The Front Office is trying to win now with the aging (but still plenty lethal) core of Curry, Thompson, and Green, but guys like Poole (and Kuminga) have made big strides...
The team is a lot better, and because of his play over the previous season, Poole played a much bigger role this year (especially with ongoing injuries to Klay Thompson at first, and then Steph Curry towards the end) – but if you look at Poole’s scoring for example, it’s identical. 22.2 points per 36 minutes this season, and 22.3 last season. The big jumps are Poole’s efficiency (.581 TS% last season, up to a crazy .598 TS% this season); and his play-making (4.7 assists per 100 possessions, versus 6.5 this year). So yeah, it had been brewing before the season started, and then he’s been pushing down the lid on the French press coffee thing all season.
Now, in regards to Bane, I’m not sure of the comp. Bane seems a little closer to Klay to me, just in terms of how he plays and where he’s the most dangerous. If I was going to pick a comp, it would be rookie Ja Morant. The Warriors aren’t ready to hand him the keys to the car just yet, but if they can afford to keep him, that’s coming in a matter of time.
3.) In Memphis’ last series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, they struggled with the size that Minnesota had in the paint. Now, really the opposite facing Golden State in terms of size and post presence. You saw that with Jaren Jackson Jr., getting to his spots offensively.
How does Golden State slow down Memphis’ paint offense consistently this series?
The core of this Warriors team cut their teeth guarding basketball savants like LeBron James and the foul merchant James Harden. The core concepts are the same now as they were against those guys: defend well, don’t foul, and help when needed. This goes back to the asymmetric warfare thing again, it’s not the size of the Warriors that’s the killer, it’s how adroit they are as individual and team defenders.
At point of attack, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney hold the center spot down, but with ample post support from the likes of Otto Porter and Andrew Wiggins. It’s a stout defense that is shockingly good against all sorts of offenses. This team wouldn’t have gotten to where they were without the ability to hold their own at the rim (or at least do equal damage on the other end).
4.) Another question regarding the lack of size for Golden State. What were the reasons for Golden State’s second chance point success in game one? Something Memphis has been successful all season is their second chance points, and snagging boards. Was a struggle in game one. How does Golden State keep that number in their favor tonight?
I’ll start off with the honest answer: a lot of luck. There were so many 50-50 balls that ended up falling into the Warriors’ hands, and quite a few Grizzlies shots that rolled out – or rebounds that just tipped in the wrong direction.
Overall, it was all just a team effort. I will point some players in particular here. Andrew Wiggins and Porter tied the team-high with eight rebounds each, sharing that mark with none other than Poole. Wiggins had 3 offensive boards, littlest big man Gary Payton pulled down four offensive rebounds (out of his total six overall). The Warriors have been emphasizing certain aspects of the game, and been doing great at having their players pick up the slack. The Grizzlies presence in the paint and the boards was frequently cited as an area of concern, so I think the only answer is going to be to summon the ghost of coach Mark Jackson and simply do better (somehow).
5.) An NBA Playoff series is so complex. Any given night, numerous players can define a game. From the star players, to the supporting cast. We saw that with Poole and Jackson Jr. in game one.
Two part question here. Who are going to be the two guys (one from both teams) that define game two. Who wins game two?
For starters, Draymond Green is going to come out angry. For the uninitiated, Green always is extra effective in the playoffs, add in some perceived slights and injustices, and you’ve got a perfect storm. He can be a double-edged sword for sure, but for better or worse, when he takes something personal, it’s a problem for the opponent, generally. He looked rushed in game one, and that double flagrant hurt the team, so he’s out to make amends. He was out to make amends before Brandon Clarke said he “wasn’t surprised.” For the second guy, I’ll cheat a bit and just say whichever of the Super Splash trio you don’t care enough about. Take Poole out with extra attention, and Curry will kill you; forget about Klay and he’ll light you up with his famously quick trigger.
Ja Morant has to be better. I know that the game came down to a single bucket, but Morant either needs to be a more efficient scorer, or figure out a way to get some stops on defense. For the second guy, I guess I’ll say Jaren Jackson Jr. I have no idea where that shooting came from, but it kept Memphis in the game. If he can keep it up, that’s a fantastic development – but if he shoots the team out of the game, or even simply loses that shooting magic, it’s going to create a hole.
Thank you to Duby Dub Dubs (@Punk_Basketball) of Dub Nation HQ (@TheDubNationHQ) for helping us preview game two from the opponents perspective. Make sure you give Duby a follow, and check out Dub Nation HQ’s content.