Warriors-Grizzlies preview: Win it for Gary Payton
Back home with series tied, and a ton of motivation
They say that these professional athletes shouldn’t need any external sources of added motivation — especially during the playoffs, when the chase for a championship smell permeates everything like the aroma of cooked bacon. But after a dirty shot on a breakaway layup sent Gary Payton II to the hospital with what was eventually diagnosed as a fractured elbow, followed by Draymond Green catching an (inadvertent) elbow? This one is personal.
Ja Morant is fresh off the best playoff game of his career; the sort of thing that defines legacies… if he can get past these Warriors, that is. 47 efficient points (including 18 in the decisive 4th quarter), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, have the Warriors searching for some creative solutions; especially now that Gary Payton is out for the remainder of the series.
On the injury front, unfortunately nothing has changed for Golden State. Looks like Andre Iguodala’s old man neck issue is lingering (man, getting old sucks!):
On the Memphis side of things Brooks got a one game unpaid vacation for his shenanigans in game two. But they’ll get Steven Adams back after a short Corona protocol hiatus:
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Saturday, May 7th, 2022 // 5:30pm PDT
Series is tied: 1-1
Death of the New Death Lineup?
They say style makes the fight, and for a lot of reasons, the Warriors guards have simply not been able to find the same success against the Memphis Grizzlies as they did in the first round against the slower-of-foot Denver Nuggets. As Joe Viray recently pointed out, this drop off has been brewing for a while, but whatever is going on, the end result is that the killer lineup isn’t killing the Grizzlies:
After the initial 2 games against the Nuggets, the New Death Lineup sported a 204.3 ORTG and a 75.0 DRTG, while outscoring the Nuggets by 129.3 points per 100 possessions — all in 11 total minutes of time on the floor.
…In 11 minutes of total playing time against the Grizzlies, the once-dreaded New Death Lineup has been outscored by a total of 11 points. Extrapolate that to per 100 possessions, and it has been outscored by a whopping 51.4 points per 100 possessions, with an extremely struggling offense (83.3 ORTG) and a Swiss-cheese defense (134.8 DRTG).
That’s a problem that is representative of a much more pervasive issue: the Warriors can’t shoot right now, and their opponent is way too good at attacking two of the five members of that unit.
To call Klay Thompson’s performance in this series uneven is perhaps a generous way to put it. His high usage off nights hurt a little bit extra in the small sample size theater of the playoffs. Sure, he had some critical (good) shots, and that huge game-saving block of Motant’s driving layup attempt in game one — but game two featured a couple of monumental (not good) shots. But he was not alone. Neither team presented a masterclass in efficient offense in game two. Whichever team turns this around more quickly in game three will probably take the win:
Thompson’s may be the most likely to have a hot flash in this regard (shooting struggle correction), but it may well be Curry too. Heck, even Otto Porter has some regression to the mean in him when it comes to three point shooting. Check out the Warrior’s three-point shot chart from game two, where they shot around 18% as a team. To call this an outlier on a team that employs Curry, Thompson, and Poole would be like calling the Marianas trench a ditch.
Memphis is a solid team at defending the three-point line, above average in both shots allowed, and shooting percentages from deep. If you watch the highlights, it’s rare that a Warriors player is taking a wide open, lazy three.
The loss of Payton is enormous. Payton was starting (for his second consecutive game), had played 22 minutes in game one, which was the 5th most on the team. What it means now is that the Warriors are down to Steph and Klay, and now Poole, who is suddenly no longer a bonus. If he continues to get breezed by on defense in targeted attacks, he needs to reliably be teams first or second best scorer.
In game two, Morant feasted on the Warriors defense — as they were unable to stop his dribble penetration, and even worse at keeping the ball out of their basket once he got inside. Morant drove to the basket 26 times in Game 2, generating 32 points on those attempts.
Poole is not the answer. Never known for his defense, he is nowhere close to being able to defend the slippery Memphis star, who dropped 47 efficient points all over the Warriors fruitless attempts to slow him.
What this does though is open up opportunity for others. Porter needs to make teams pay with more scoring, but his rebounding has played a major role in keeping the Warriors in this series. In game two, he rebounded 13% of offensive rebound opportunities (96th percentile), and his 24% of the defensive rebounds when he was on the court (92nd percentile).
Changing this will be one of Steven Adams' highest priorities in game three.
With news that Andre Iguodala won’t be available for at least another week, and three full days off, there will definitely be adjustments from both teams. Damion Lee seems to be Kerr’s preference, but Warriors fans should be prepared for more Kuminga, and maybe even fellow rookie, Moses Moody. No matter what the exact details are going to be, without Payton, and the New Death Lineup not killing, someone(s) will have more chances to help out their Warriors teammates.
Expect some big tweaks in game three
With Steven Adams back as an option, and Dillon Brooks getting the game off, there’s going to be an entirely new vibe to this game tonight. Beyond that, both teams have two games worth of tightly contested basketball game footage to pour over and formulate strikes and counterstrikes from.
Can the Warriors find their shot? Will Steven Adams put an end to the Warriors’ surprising advantage on the glass? Is there an answer for the athleticism and quickness of Morant?
We’ll find out this evening.
Kerr switching to zone defense early in the first was a masterful touch.