I didn’t even bother to watch this game, so confident was I that the Warriors would finish off the Grizzlies and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in my tenure as a fan. (In fact there were other reasons as well; see below.)
I did manage to hear the last half of the 4th quarter on the web while wandering around the grounds of the Coppola Winery with my main squeeze. NBA League Pass was streaming the Memphis broadcast, not the Warriors’, which was disappointing at first, then kind of fun as we repeatedly heard the play-by-play guy tell us that Steph Curry was shooting a 3 and then say, very sadly and quietly, “Good.”
Down the stretch the BFA* just plain tore the Grizzlies’ hearts out, starting with a 63-foot swish at the 3rd quarter buzzer. There is something special about that young man. He is going to be a star someday.
So it’s on to the Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets, who survived a crazy rollercoaster of a 7-game series against the LA Clippers. I had kind of hoped the Dubs would have a chance to avenge last year’s first-round defeat, but the Clips flamed out in spectacular fashion, blowing a huge lead in Game 6 and then choking like Mama Cass in Game 7. So it’s hard to complain too much.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling extremely confident of how the Warriors will do against the Rockets. Although they were a higher seed, I don’t think the Rockets are actually as good as the Grizzlies, and we saw how that went once the Dubs took a couple of punches and got their shit together. The basketball gods hate arrogance, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable time to expect success.
Also, the night the Dubs closed out the Grizz was also the night I finally got engaged to the love of my life. So there’s that.
The final score of last night’s game was 98-78. That first number is nice, but it’s the second number that really matters. After decades of watching Warriors teams that a) didn’t know defense existed or b) paid lip service to the idea with no follow-through, we finally have a team that grasps the concept. Turns out defense wins games. Who knew?
Most of the press today focused on the fact that the Dubs were 14 of 30 from three-point range, and this was awesome, to be sure. When Andre Iguodala and Harrison (Playoff) Barnes are raining in bombs from long range in addition to the Splash Brothers, it gets a little ridiculous. After the game Memphis head coach Dave Joerger was quoted as saying, “When Iguodala is knocking in threes, it’s like, ‘Not another one. Not another guy.’ ”
But those 98 points would mean nothing if the Grizz had scored 100. Instead, they shot 33-for-83 from the field for 39.8%, well below the W’s three-point percentage of 46.7. This does not happen by accident. Defense happens when you concentrate on defense.
The Grizzlies demonstrated this in Games 2 and 3, when they hounded the Warriors into a frenetic mindset that took them completely out of their game. So what has changed? Some will point to the absence of Tony Allen, who sat out most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 with a hamstring injury. And that has helped, no doubt. But I think the Dubs have just plain figured the Grizz out — double-teaming Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph relentlessly and using their speed to close out on shooters when necessary. This creates turnovers that fuel the Dubs offense, and when they get it clicking, they are like Godzilla stomping on Tokyo.
This does not guarantee a victory in Game 6 tomorrow. The Grizzles will get Allen back and they’ll be at home, and as we’ve seen they can be a formidable opponent. But if the Warriors continue to play at their current high level on both defense and offense, man, they’re going to be hard to beat.
This Grizzlies fan changed allegiances in mid-game, offering Steph Curry a high-five.
All around Dub Nation last night people were hunkered down in their safest-feeling locations, praying to whatever higher power they believed in, sacrificing whatever animals they felt like they could do without. And lo and behold, Steph Curry DID return from the dead, scoring 33 points to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists, playing great defense, and generally looking like the MVP for the first time since being handed the trophy.
After resembling a post-Crystal Chamber Superman for two games, Steph got his mojo back, with the help of a little sage advice from Steve Kerr. Maybe the most telling moment: Early in the game Steph had a breakaway, tried to dunk, and almost blew it; the ball smacked off the rim and just barely rolled in. In the second quarter he had another freebie, and instead of settling for the layup, this time he threw it down with authority.
The rest of the team helped a lot, of course. Draymond Green was Good Draymond, Harrison Barnes was Playoff Barnes, and Andre Iguodala was Andre Iguodala, Professional Basketball Player. Andrew Bogut scrapped and battled with the Grizz giants and Klay Thompson, despite another off night, worked his ass off and was +18. Even the little-seen David Lee pitched in, scoring 5 points and providing some key hustle plays.
It’s funny how things work sometimes. No game in this series has been close; instead, the Warriors and Grizzles have taken turns looking like the vastly superior team. Basketball is a game of runs and momentum, and this series has seen two huge swings from side to side, with Game 4’s score ending up almost identical to Game 1’s. Hopefully there won’t be any more. We’ll see on Wednesday when the series moves back to Oakland.