After two hotly contested games in Memphis, the Grizzlies are heading to the Bay for game three against the Golden State Warriors. The series is tied 1-1 and neither team has played its best. However, the result has still been high-paced, high-energy basketball.
After a game one win, Stephen Curry told Ja Morant “it’s gonna be a battle, we’re gonna have some fun,” and after his 47-point game two win Morant returned the favor. The people having the most fun, however, might be fans of basketball everywhere. Two of the most exciting players in the league going head to head. What more could you ask for?
The first two games of this series have been electric, in your opinion what about this matchup makes it so fun to watch?
It’s a combination of things that lead to some phenomenal fireworks. It starts with the fact that these teams are just so evenly matched. They’re two of the top teams in the NBA and, for whatever reason, they always seem to play each other very well and very close, dating back to last season. When you go into a game knowing that every possession counts, and it’s unlikely to be a blowout in either direction, it just feels special. You hang to every play like it could decide the game, and it becomes so much fun.
Then there’s the fact that these teams play with so much passion, and wear their hearts on their sleeve. Ja Morant and Draymond Green are two of the most expressive players in the league, albeit in dramatically different ways. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks can all be demonstrative and arrogant on the court. Both teams have trash talkers. Both teams are emotional. Both teams like to showboat.
Finally, each team has a superstar guard who is one of the most fun players in the world to watch. And each team has a high-level defense. Is there anything in the NBA more fun than a superstar perimeter player trying to solve the puzzle that is an elite defense?
Add that all up and this series has been a bowl full of fireworks...and I expect it to stay that way.
Ja Morant had 47 points in the last game, how can the Warriors slow him down in game three without Gary Payton II?
The Warriors are going to have to take some tips from how other teams — including the Grizzlies — guard Curry. Namely they’re going to have to start trapping, and sending second defenders whenever they can, as far away from the hoop as possible. Through two games the Warriors have focused on forcing Morant into low-efficiency shots, but that can only go so far. Now it’s time to force the ball out of his hands entirely.
I think they can also try putting more length on him. With Payton out, I expect Andrew Wiggins to start on Morant. But don’t be surprised if the Warriors turn to Draymond...they’ve used him on many primary ball-handlers this year, including Chris Paul, and the results have been good.
The Warriors have dominated on the glass and in the paint through the first two games of the series against a team who led the league in both categories. What has been the main reason for that?
The Warriors have been able to use their smaller size to their advantage in this series, even in the areas of the court where they should struggle. The’ve used energy and athleticism to compete on the glass, though they’ve also benefited from slightly more opportunities, as the Grizzlies have missed six more shots than the Warriors in the series. There’s been a certain level of disruption and chaos that the Warriors have been able to create by flying in from the wings for rebounds. The fact that so many threes have been taken by each team helps, too, as the long rebounds benefit smaller lineups.
As for scoring in the paint, the Warriors have capitalized on the gravity that Curry, Thompson, and Poole have. Despite having two of the best shooters in NBA history, the Warriors have never been as reliant on the three ball as people believe. They often use the threat of the three to space out the defense, and then take advantage of the unprotected rim. Even though the Warriors have done well in the paint, they still need to be more aggressive getting to the rim, and need their role players to cut more.
Dillon Brooks is suspended for game three, what impact will that have for both teams?
It’s certainly a big break for the Warriors, as Brooks has historically done a very good job when defending Curry. It’s also a break simply because Brooks plays that high-energy, confident disruptor role that can be so critical when a team goes on the road.
That said, it’s not all bad for Memphis. Brooks obviously hasn’t been having a great season shooting the ball, and the Warriors defense is built around daring struggling shooters to shoot. Brooks has been happy to work with that strategy, and has shot just 2-for-9 from distance in the series. It’s possible that with Brooks out, the Grizzlies resort to shooters who handle the Warriors defense a little bit better.
But on the whole, it really impacts game three in the Warriors favor. They would never say it out loud, but getting Brooks away from Curry is a huge break for Golden State.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Warriors as a whole had an uncharacteristic shooting night in game two. How did the Grizzlies defense affect them and how can they bounce back in game three?
Memphis deserves a lot of credit, but for the Warriors the main goal has to be to just keep chucking. Curry, Thompson, and Poole combined to shoot 6-for-29 from three-point range, and that’s not going to happen again even if they’re defended by three prime Tony Allens. So the Warriors at some level need to stay the course.
But the physicality and peskiness of the Memphis Grizzlies has really thrown off Golden State’s offense. They’re bumping Curry, Thompson, Poole, and Andrew Wiggins at every turn. They’re getting in their faces, and ceding space closer to the hoop instead of behind the arc. They’re swiping, poking, and have been fully comfortable giving up non-shooting fouls 30 feet from the hoop. They’re simply making the Warriors guards and wings uncomfortable and out of rhythm, which is the best thing you can do to disrupt a shooter. The Warriors need to counter that with more off ball movement (specifically cuts), and trying to push a little more so they can get into their sets before Memphis’ defense is set.
Thanks to Brady Klopfer for joining to talk about this highly anticipated matchup, you can follow him on Twitter here (@BradyKlopferNBA).