Game 2 preview: Memphis gets another shot at gritty Warriors
No more home court advantage for Memphis - can Golden State extend their lead with another win on the road?
It’s time for a second game in this thrilling matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies. Game one was nuts. A down-to-the-wire thrill fest that came down to the final possession.
Golden State ripped homecourt advantage away from the young Grizzlies, and this series took an early turn towards getting personal. A hard foul from Green leading to an ejection guarantees that this one is going to be a little bit personal. Not that anyone needed it. These are the same young Grizz that knocked the Warriors out of the play-in tournament and slipped past them to take the higher seed as the season wound to a close. The same team that came in being #1 in rebounding, and points in the paint. The Warriors beat them out at both in game one. And if Memphis can’t come out of tonight with a win, it’s going to be a steep San Francisco hill to climb back into the series.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. It took an astute Klay Thompson rotation and brilliant defensive play to get some fingers (despite what Morant thinks) on that attempted game winner; tonight should be even tougher.
On the injury front, fingers crossed that it’s the same list as game 1. All the same names out still out, but Klay Thompson and Desmond Bane are both showing as questionable at time of writing:
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Tuesday, May 3, 2022 // 6:30(ish)pm PDT
Warriors lead series 1-0
Those gritty Warriors
When Draymond Green was assessed a Flagrant two and removed from game one, there was only a minute or so left in the first half. It was a huge blow to a team that was barely hanging on in a back-and-forth battle that saw them down by as many as 13 points. At that point, Green had rung up six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block (in 17 minutes of game time).
To start the 3rd quarter, the Warriors went back to their starting unit, but with Kevon Looney inserted in Green’s place. Looney has been quietly having what is easily the best, most impactful season of his career. He logged the 4th most minutes on the team during the regular season, but that’s dropped down the the 8th in the playoffs. Still, when he was called on, Looney provided valuable minutes. That unit that opened the 3rd quarter was +6 overall, including separate runs of 17-5 and and 8-1.
Looney isn’t alone though. For a team that clearly drives on the power of Curry, Thompson, and Poole, they’ve also got a solid backbone of gritty, flexible players.
Veterans like Otto Porter (who tied Wiggins and Poole with 8 rebounds to lead the team) and Gary Payton bear a mention here too. Frequently in the middle of critical exchanges, game one was perhaps more about the role players on both teams than it was about the stars. Sometimes it was Payton making smart cuts like this:
But just as often it was all the little marginal moments. Those hustle plays that have endeared players like Porter, Wiggins, and Payton to fans.
There’s an “old dogs” vibe to this Warriors team. A hard edge earned from all the previous playoff experience of the core tempering the youthful edges to create a resilient team that is getting it done. Gritty.
What was the biggest problem for each team?
The first thing to note is that the Warriors did well in the aspects that were defined when looking at these two teams on paper. The hung with the Grizzlies in the rebounding battle, kept the game pace under control, and stabilized their defense amidst one of the more suspect referee jobs we’ve seen in recent history. Rebounds and second chance points played a big part in all of those things:
Memphis isn’t going to just hand their identity to Golden State, so keeping the Warriors off the glass will be a priority in game two. They’ve got other issues in Memphis too. The Warriors and Grizzlies played to a dead heat as the game wound to a close, but Morant was frequently exposed by getting lost off-ball against the coach Steve Kerr’s hyperactive offense. The Warriors are not the same team that Memphis faced in the previous round. There were lots of examples in game one of the Warriors non-stop action flowing like water and inexorably causing cracks in the Grizzlies defense:
Poole was the Grizzlies’ bigger problem. He finished the night with 31 points (on 12-20 from the field including 5 of 10 from deep), 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Where it took Ja Morant 31 shots to get his 34 points, Poole was efficiently picking the defense apart. Once again, it looks like the opposing team doesn’t have a player quick enough and/or shifty enough to stay with him. I don’t know that Poole will have another game like that last one, but the Warriors probably don’t need him to lead the team in every statistical category in order to win most nights.
Curry was supposedly 0-7 with Dillon Brooks as his primary defender in game one; but whether means that Memphis will be more comfortable leaving that matchup alone or if the Grizzlies overload to slow Poole down is anyone’s guess. If they do opt for more Poole-centric defense, it might well free up Curry a bit. In case you missed it, Poole was an enormous headache, and Memphis is certainly going to tinker with their schemes.
One cool thing about these series is that players (and teams) are slowly identifying who they do — and do not — want to go against. Morant didn’t have a perfect game, but he was a high scoring agent of chaos out there. Here’s one to watch for: Morant may like our beloved Splash Brother, Klay Thompson as a target. If you’re looking for the weakest link in regards to change of pace and lateral speed amongst the Warriors’ wings, this is probably it.
The young Grizzlies core of wings came close last game, so I’m not sure how drastically either team will try to reinvent themselves. Knowing Draymond Green and the Warriors, they’ll be out to stomp the hope out of Memphis, and I can’t see them failing at it. Especially after the Grizzlies poked the bear.
Warriors are going out for blood tonight.