No Curry, Wiggins? No problem as Warriors stomp Grizzlies on Christmas
'Tis the season for whupping Memphis, no matter how much trash they wanna talk.
The Golden State Warriors, the reigning, defending, undisputed, heavyweight champions of the NBA, put on a Christmas Day showcase for their home fans as they humiliated the Memphis Grizzlies 123-109 in Chase Center.
Despite missing greatest player alive Stephen Curry and All-Star starter Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors overwhelmed the visitors with a stingy defensive effort (limiting the Grizz to 41% shooting from the field, 9-of-39 from 3PT range) and an efficient night offensively (only 10 turnovers while knocking down 18-of-44 attempts from deep).
The 2019 second overall pick Ja Morant scored 36 points for Memphis with 8 rebounds and 7 assists, but he couldn’t find the support needed to overcome a true team effort from Golden State. That effort was led by Jordan Poole, who was drafted 26 spots later in 2019 draft. He started the game instead of the wounded Curry and led the Dubs in scoring with 32 points.
Wow sure is nice that the Warriors can just plug Poole into Curry’s spot and still smack the Grizzlies around. Meanwhile Klay Thompson added 24 points of his own and a big-time 9 rebounds. Donte DiVincenzo put together the kind of the game that Dub Nation salivated over when checking his highlight tape in the offseason DDV scored 19 points and dishing 3 assists while nailing five triples.
And the heartbeat of the team Draymond Green had one of those Draymondian games, taking only three shots but tallying 13 rebounds and 13 assists with 2 blocks. Watching him run the game as a point-forward and then captain the defense against the Grizzlies was a thing of beauty, as he continually stayed one step ahead of them with his brilliant passing and stingy defensive presence.
This was a pretty riveting matchup going into the contest, partially because these two teams have clashed in postseason play over the last two seasons. The Grizz eliminated the Dubs in the 2021 play-in in Chase Center, and the Warriors crushed them in five games in the second round of last year’s playoffs despite Memphis having home-court advantage.
And the contest was also magnified because the Grizzlies and Warriors have a healthy amount of trash talk going between the two clubs. The most recent chit chat included Memphis guard Dillon Books (the man who cheapshot a defenseless Gary Payton II last playoffs) declaring he wanted the Klay matchup because Klay was talking smack.
Wellp Brooks got his chance last night but Klay continued to get the last laugh, daggering Brooks in the fourth quarter with a slick jumpshot and then crowing over him like a boxer who just knocked an opponent silly:
YES YES YES INJECT THIS DIRECTLY INTO MY VEINS! The champs were terrorizing the Grizzlies so much that the refs began protecting them like an endangered species. They handed out six technical fouls to the Dubs, including two that got Poole ejected.
But ref shenanigans aside, the champs proved once again that they’re just on a different level than Memphis, a team that came into this game tied for best record in the Western Conference.
Wiseman and the Youth Movement
There’s always little sequences throughout a game where suddenly the balance of power shifts. For example, there was a sequence towards the end of the first half where the Warriors gift-wrapped four straight free throws to Memphis guard Tyus Jones by fouling him on a three-point play and then getting a tech arguing. It cut into Golden State’s lead and gave Memphis life, gifting them easy points.
Fortunately the Dubs didn’t let it hurt them, but those are the little ten second stretches throughout a contest that observers will point to later and mutter “that’s where we lost the game”.
It reminds us of how small sequences create potentially huge momentum swings. With that in mind, only a real hater could watch last night’s game and walk away unfazed by the quality eight minutes center James Wiseman contributed in reserve duty.
For context about where I stand, I was one of the earliest co-settlers of Mount Wiseman, even co-authoring a Wiseman rookie year analysis that was either so prophetic or so delusional that DNHQ had to be awarded for it. In that piece, Dr. Tom eloquently wrote about why selecting the wildcard of a 7-foot freak athlete with scoring prowess was exactly the gamble GSW was interested in playing:
Taking a chance on the kind of player the Warriors have not had during this recent run is the smart move to make. What you want to have is as many ways to beat a team as possible. If an opponent is able to slow you down in one area, then you can lean on the other. Wiseman has the skills and potential to be a dominant big man in the modern NBA so using that draft pick and then taking the time for him to develop is the smart play, especially to extend Curry’s prime in addition to remaining a contending squad.
Last night the Warriors were facing a brutish team who uses their great height and physicality to crash their bodies around the rim like WWE wrestlers to dominate the glass.
On the other side, the Dubs were not only missing the offensive firepower of Curry and Wiggins, but also their rebounding acumen (Wiggins averaged 8.8 boards per game in the NBA Finals while Curry averaged 6 rebounds of his own in the championship round).
Golden State needed a big guy to to help control the paint. Enter Wiseman, who snatched five rebounds in his eight minutes off the bench and stymied several Grizzlies possessions with solid defensive positioning and grit. AND HE ONLY COMMITTED ONE FOUL!
The legendary DNHQ commander Eric Apricot has blessed us during this holiday season with some in-depth analysis of Wiseman’s successful stint last night in the latest Explain One Play. He breaks down the improved positioning and fearsome intangibles that show Wiseman’s growth.
Pretty sure even the biggest Wiseman critic can admit that if he protects the rim and grabs boards, then the Warriors don’t even have to rely on him to score much (even though he became the youngest Warrior to ever score 25+ points in a game).
I highly recommend you do yourself a huge service and peep Apricot’s breakdown; he provides quality insight into this Wiseman experiment. CHECK IT OUT!
This game showed us another glimpse as to why GSW took chances on drafting raw, athletic projects like Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga. JK bullied his way to the free throw line for 8 free throw attempts, the same number charity line shots as teammate Jordan Poole and one more than the downhill foul-drawing machine Morant. That reckless physicality gave Memphis a taste of their own medicine.
Although Kuminga did cough up three turnovers when they rebuffed his efforts, he’s shown strong flashes of learning how to slow it down and pick his spots better as the season progresses.
And shout out to Moses Moody, who scored 10 points in 17 minutes off of the bench. Moody looked like he belonged out there, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him eating some postseason minutes in this matchup. Heck, he outscored Memphis’ two-guard and sniper Desmond Bane, who was a woeful 2-of-13 for 9 points in 24 minutes. And I thought Memphis was supposed to have the elite young talent?!?
Bench made us proud
One of the biggest complaints about investing in the three lottery picks is that during their development phase, Coach Kerr sometimes keeps them glued to the bench, which on the box score looks like dead roster spots.
According to some vocal folks I’ve seen on the internet, if the lottery picks can’t get in and contribute consistently, that presents a two-fold dilemma. The theory goes that not only does that force a heavier workload on the aging veterans, but it also blocks some alternate, superior players from joining the team in a trade and helping. Perhaps that’s why some observers were so upset that Coach Kerr dared to play two-way contract players Ty Jerome and Jeremy Lamb during regular season games.
Two-way contracts are normally associated with filler spots on the roster, guys who are G-Leaguers but get called up occasionally to help out. So according to that logic there’s no way those two should have given the Christmas Day business to the Memphis Grizzlies, a team allegedly so terrifyingly dominant that on the old GSOM site I ran a poll on who would win the game and the fans bowed in fear to the visitors.
But Lamb and Jerome came to play, lighting Memphis up like a Christmas tree from beyond the arc, combining to shoot 5-of-8 from deep. Jerome finished with 14 points and Lamb added 11 of his own (and 2 steals) in bold performances.
I wanna send a warning out to all the teams that may spend some time with the #1 record in the conference: Do not come to Chase Center.
Or you will end up like Boston and Memphis: SACRIFICED IN FRONT OF DUB NATION AND A LIVE TV AUDIENCE. Best home court advantage in basketball baby!