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.