Warriors-Grizzlies Game 1: Asymmetrical basketball war!
Warriors new death lineup versus an athletic young Grizz team with something to prove
After handling the plodding but tough Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors are in for a new, tougher challenge in the young, athletic Memphis Grizzlies. A Grizzlies team that has thrown down the gauntlet by taking a 3-1 advantage over the Warriors in the regular season.
But you know who else had that same record against Golden State?
The regular season is a different beast and this is a version of the Warriors that Memphis didn't see earlier this season.
WHO: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Sunday, May 1, 2022 // 12:30pm PDT
Stop the Grizzlies from running; stop the Warriors from running their sets
The Warriors and Grizzlies have a lot of similarities, but they both go about the business of running their offenses in totally different ways. Memphis is almost like a younger Warriors squad — propelled by a couple of dynamic guards and a mixed team of veterans and young players that are gelling. They rose up with former rookie of the year, now turned Most Improved Player, Ja Morant, who led the team in regular season scoring at 27.4 per game.
That changed a bit in the first round of the playoffs, where they morphed into a deadly three-guard lineup where Desmond Bane took the lead (23.5 ppg), alongside Morant (21.5) and Dillon Brooks (16.5ppg).
But any real talk of slowing the Memphis attack down should start with limiting transition opportunities. Morant somehow managed to lead the entire league in points in the paint during the regular season, playing a large role in the Grizzlies strong transition attack — where they were first in the NBA in transition (22.5 possessions per game). It’s funny because it’s not the efficiency that kills you. The Warriors are actually more efficient by around 20%, with 1.27 points per attempt (5th-best in the league) compared the Grizzlies’ 1.06.
I’m not the only one that has identified this area as important, but you can bet that the Warriors’ plan will start with the important step of slowing down the Memphis transition attack. From friend of the HQ, Joe Viray, who’s preview you should check out1 posted a bunch of relevant stats — here’s an excerpt of that which I want to look at more closely in context of this discussion:
Take a look at both team’s offense ratings, and then the change that happens when you just look within the half court sets. The elite Memphis offense drops from 4th to 22nd. On the flip side, the defenses of the Warriors holds up a lot better when you look at both the transition opportunities as well as the overall half court; comparatively, the Memphis defense looks ok overall (6th), but they slip a lot more in transition as compared to Golden State.
But the other side of this discussion is that the Warriors offense is going to apply constant pressure on Memphis defenders. They chose to go small (or at least without a “traditional” center with size) and have just survived one of the league’s most dominant big men. As long as the Warriors don’t turn the ball over a ton, and can keep the breakaway transition opportunities to a minimum, they’ll win the scoring efficiency battle and come out on top.
One other aspect that’s going to come up as important in this series will be the outside shooting. Via Anthony Slater, check out the most made threes in the first round:
1. Desmond Bane: 27 of 56 in six games
2. Anthony Edwards: 23 of 57 in six games
3. Klay Thompson: 22 of 48 in five games
Now, Otto Porter was supposed to be my X-Factor against the Nuggets, and his impact was real mixed. Though he had a couple of games where he was single game plus/minus darling, his shooting disappeared, he just hit two of his thirteen attempts (and Slater also notes that Bjelica was zero for a measly three attempts).
I’m going to go Warriors in six on this one. Memphis is a much better team that Denver was overall, and their strengths are a more dangerous match against Golden State’s weaknesses.
Andre Iguodala is out still and won’t be evaluated again for a while, so the Warriors are going to be looking for some extra help on the wings. Kuminga is rumored to be a potential fit in this series, and the Warriors may need him to counter some of the Memphis youth/athleticism advantage.
All that said, the Warriors are a veteran crew that have everything they need to punch right through this round and onwards towards their chase for another ring. First things first though; GAME ONE! Let’s go!
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