Jiggle the handle: Warriors need some new/old tweaks against Memphis
Without Morant, the Grizzlies are suddenly a worse matchup for Golden State
The Golden State Warriors couldn’t get it done in Memphis, but hope to close out the Grizzlies tonight at home. The last game was bad. The worst playoff loss of Kerr’s tenure, 5th worst loss in the history of the organization… all summed up in that painful video of the Memphis dance team singing and dancing right in front of the Warriors bench. It’s an image that is just the latest addition to a matchup that has been getting more and more personal since the Grizzlies knocked the Warriors out of the play-in tournament last season.
On the injury front, everything is mostly status quo (no Iguodala (for at least another week or so), or Payton; no Morant) but I am anxiously watching the injury reports for some sort of update on Otto Porter. Porter, who left the previous game with “foot discomfort” is listed as Questionable at time of writing.
Payton sidelined, Iguodala on the shelf for at least another week, and now Porter? That’s almost their entire free agent class.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Friday, May 13th, 2022 // 7pm
Warriors lead series 3-2
The Warriors need a new plan
It’s a different game without Ja Morant. A different series. Obviously, getting blown out like the Warriors did in game five (82-126) means that coaching staff and players alike will be taking a fresh look at what has, and hasn’t worked. One thing is for certain though, there’s a shifting reality at play. Here’s Draymond Green from his postgame media availability) talking about the metamorphosis of the matchups without Morant:
"More guys touch the ball, you gotta account for more guys on a normal basis when Ja isn't on the floor. They're also a different team defensively when Ja isn't on the floor and that's something that's been understated as well. Like you're putting Ja into actions and other things like that and you're not really doing that now defensively because they have like-sized guys, they're switching things and different stuff of that nature.
We have to approach this next game as an entirely different series… because that's just a totally different team than we were playing”
The blowout exposed some structural flaws. Whether those flaws prove to be critical or not will be determined in large part by how Golden State responds tonight. There were no shortages of problems in game five, but chief among them: porous defense, inability to keep Steven Adams off the glass, too many turnovers / stagnant offense, and some bad shooting.
It can be fixed, but will it?
The Warriors lackluster defense played a large part of the team’s early struggles. They were regularly beat off the dribble, couldn’t rotate fast enough to prevent open shooters, and got absolutely lit up by a Grizzlies team that was playing without their leading scorer. Check out the offense stats for both teams in the half court (note this excludes garbage time and heaves):
Steven Adams now has 30 rebounds in the 55 minutes he’s spent on the court. Not coincidentally, his minutes also line up with the Grizzlies’ best defensive rating. In game five he snagged 13 rebounds and was a deterrent in the paint and on the glass. When it was just Jaren Jackson, Golden State was able to more easily cover for the size deficiency, but Adams is an enormous man that can simply walk through guys like Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter (or even Draymond Green and Kevon Looney). There is simply no one on the Warriors roster that can come close to matching the size and strength of Adams. And if you can't get past the problems that Adam’s presents, forget about Giannis.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Memphis was able to secure nearly half of their misses in the previous, an absurdly high offensive rebounding rate of 44.2% — the only reason this is lower than the near 50% mark above is because of all the transition shot opportunities that Memphis was getting off the turnovers.
Add in the garbage time, and the net result of all this is that the Grizzlies took 20 more shot attempts than the Warriors. Well… not just the rebounding. Golden State ran into their old frenemy: the turnover. Draymond Green had 5, Jordan Poole had 4, as the listless Warriors sleep walked their way through an offense that has become a little too comfortable and predictable. It didn’t seem hungry enough.
For the entire series, Green has 20 turnovers and 28 assists; Poole has 17 turnovers, and 24 assists. Not good. Pretty much in line with how this series has gone overall. I looked it up, you want the count on total turnovers?
Poole was a minus-34 in 20 minutes in the disastrous game five, only making one of his six shot attempts and committing four of the Warriors’ 22 turnovers. Poole’s ascendance to star was playing a large role in Golden State’s success, but his struggles now are threatening to tank the team’s chances on the biggest stage. He’s averaging 19 points in about 30 minutes per game, but seems to be a little ruffled since Memphis coach, Taylor Jenkins waged his ham-fisted PR campaign against him.
So, what to adjust?
For starters, the Warriors need their stars more than ever. This roster is about as top heavy as you can get, and so they’ll need the top of the payroll to carry extra weight. With coach Steve Kerr still out with Covid, and just one off day between games (that was largely spent travelling), there’s probably no time for anything major.
That said, there’s some low hanging fruit.
Green is the most obviously out of sorts, and dealing with the death of someone you’re close to will do that. But Green has always found another gear in the games that matter. Recall that his career high is shockingly high: 37 points in a critical playoff game played without Curry. The opportunity is there for Green to do more on both ends of the court, but this team could really use some offense out of him right now (or at least less turnovers).
The turnovers and bad offense are another issue with a tried and true counter. Attack more, be more aggressive. Passing the ball around is all well and good, but sometimes the offense has to channel the caterpillar of Mark Jackson’s simple man-on-man offense. Get Adams on some switches in space and let Poole or Curry go to work. The problem has been that the presence of Looney and'/or Green allows too many defenders to sag into the paint.
It’s a tricky situation, but the Warriors have figured their way out of tighter spaces before. Plus, we get game 6 Klay for the first time in years!
I was really looking forward to a weekend of disengaging, so I don’t know exactly how the Warriors are going to do it, but they’ve got to win this one tonight.
Welcome to DNHQ’s weirdest feature: random music Friday! It’s not punk rock for once. This one is a one-off song that I know from this rad compilation album. I think it’s one of the best on there, the “me stopping me” vibe seems relevant to tonight’s game, and they just released a video for it: