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Warriors - Grizzlies two-man roundtable
Chatting with Brendan Smart, Senior Writer covering the Memphis Grizzlies
After a tense first two games, the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies are knotted up at one win each as the series swings back to Oracle for a pivotal game three in San Francisco on Saturday. News broke yesterday that fan favorite, Gary Payton II has sustained a busted elbow and will indeed miss significant time.
With emotions running high, I sat down (virtually) with Brendan Smart, Senior Writer for SBN site, Grizzly Bear Blues. We touch on the injury and hard foul and what adjustments and concerns both of us saw for the teams. The internet can be a harsh place, so please
Ok, first up, let’s just get the big one out of the way: the Gary Payton injury. The foul, the reaction, and then how big of a deal is it?
SMART: Cutting straight to the chase, I want to make it very clear that I don’t think that it was a smart play by any means from Dillon Brooks. I think that this has an overall impact on the Warriors wing depth at guarding Ja Morant. I also think that the best is ahead for Gary Peyton.
Charles Barkely mentioned on NBA on TNT during the postgame that he doesn’t think a lot of guys know how to land in those situations. The wind up from Brooks to the head and neck area had nothing to do with how Payton landed. I don’t think there was any intent to hurt Gary Payton from Brooks. I’ve never seen Dillon seek out an injury. Brooks is a competitor just like Draymond Green.
Especially in the NBA Playoffs, we’ve seen two competitors trying to stop an easy basket. Brandon Clarke was thrown to the ground in game one, and Payton in game two. If Clarke gets injured on the landing, I think we are having a totally different discussion.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a big deal, but it is for the Warriors. Payton provided a spark on the defensive end, and created energy for this Warriors team. Prayers for Gary Payton as recovers from the elbow fracture, but next man for Golden State.
DUBY: For me, I don’t think intent matters. Brooks had zero shot at getting the ball on the play, and wasn’t even looking at it during the foul. The Clarke play would be different for sure if he had been hurt, but the truth (at least to Warriors fans right now), is that he wasn’t. Much of that may be due to the amount of force of the hit, but the most salient factor to me is that Clarke wasn’t in anything close to the vulnerable position that Payton was.
It also doesn’t help the case that so many of the Grizzly players were talking about playing this game more physically.. And then on two consecutive plays early in the game, two critical Warriors left the court. One with a fractured elbow, and the other requiring stitches after catching an elbow (to be fair, that elbow looked way more unintentional). But as you say, next man up! For me, I want a nice short suspension. Get Brooks back on the court so the Warriors can outplay him and send the Grizzlies packing!
And now, on to the actual games… These teams get three days off to plan. What are the adjustments you think Memphis should make?
SMART - I think with Gary Payton being out an extended amount of time with the Elbow Fracture, Memphis has to attack Jordan Poole defensively. That is, if Poole takes Payton’s spot in the starting lineup.
You really saw that attacking mentality from Ja Morant down the stretch of game two when the screen was set, Poole was sought out. Attacking that defensive weakness will open up the Grizzlies wings for more open shots as the Warriors crash the paint on Morant drives to the rim.
I love watching the Warriors because of how well they take care of the basketball. They’ve been through the ringer and won titles. Memphis hasn’t done any of that, but is learning how to win late. The Grizzlies can avoid some of the late game heroics by simply taking better care of their possessions. For example, I believe Memphis took a double-digit lead out of the half in game two.
Then, proceeded to throw it away with sloppy possessions and turnovers. Simply honing into the details of a playoff game. Now heading into one of the loudest home arenas in the NBA, their attention to detail and possessions will have to be at an all-time high.
DUBY: Yeah, if I’m Poole, I’m real nervous for game three. He cooked in game one, but had a hard time with the adjustments in game two. Now that Morant’s primary defender is off the table, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that Memphis is going to make it a high priority to attack both Poole and Thompson.
It feels like both of these teams haven’t played their best game yet. Through two games, unusual things have happened. For example, in game two, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson don’t produce at their highest level. Overall, game two was one of the worst 3-Point Shooting performances from Golden State dating back to the 90’s. Is this a matchup issue? Or is this self inflicted?
DUBY: Well, there’s plenty of blame to go around on this one. Curry is coming off a foot injury, Klay Thompson is only now rounding into something resembling his old form - but he’s still insanely streaky. And Poole is a rising star, but he can disappear at times. It’s playoff basketball though, and none of this happens in a vacuum. Memphis is aggressively closing out on our outside shooters, and then daring them to drive into JJJ - which the team has mostly refused to do. I don’t think this is isolated to the Warriors either, looking at Basketball Reference, the Grizzlies were above average in this regard: ranked 12th in three-pointers allowed, and 11th in opponent three-point shooting percentage.
So a bit of both, I guess. One of my favorite (and somehow also least favorite) aspect ot the playoffs is how much small sample sizes matter. If either Thompson or Curry (or Poole, or Porter) shoots anywhere near their normal percentages, Golden State could have taken game two. But that didn’t happen, and just expecting a regression to the mean without adjusting anything isn’t a very solid plan; so I expect the Warriors to use pump fakes, secondary actions, and other little tricks to free up some additional space on the outside.
SMART - For the Grizzlies it feels like a lot of weird timing. Desmond Bane was such a huge factor in the Minnesota Timberwolves series but has battled a back injury. Credit Golden State’s defense for clouding him, and not allowing him to get to his spots beyond the perimeter.
Also, Taylor Jenkins calls this offense “controlled chaos” due to their frenetic pace while getting turnovers on defense that turns into stops and scores… It’s been more chaotic thus far. Memphis thrives in transition, and they’ve had opportunities. It’s all about capitalizing those opportunities.
With Gary Payton out for an extended time. Someone has to defend Ja Morant. What is your blueprint for the Warriors defensively moving forward in this series?
DUBY: Does “panic” count as a strategy? Ha, just kidding. Sort of. Coming off a legacy-defining game two from Morant, the Warriora have adjustments to make. Gary Payton was the answer. It’s why he was starting in the series, why he logged the 5th most minutes on the team in game one… and it’s also why so many people are calling that play that he got hurt on “dirty.” It’s a huge blow for the Warriors, no doubt, and it sets in motion a bunch of tertiary plans that aren’t ideal.
Morant is just too quick for the other options that Golden State has at their disposal. After game two, coach Steve Kerr mentioned old man Andre Iguodala, but it’s hard to see him staying with Morant on those hesi moves. That’s where Morant started picking up all those wide open threes. I’ve got to image more doubles and traps.
Thompson and Poole are so unsuitable that they’re often intentionally targeted on switches; Curry may be the best remaining guard defender on the roster, but the team is loathe to use up his energy on that end of the court. So the only answer here is going to be a steady rotating stream of people, but with a bit more help (maybe some additional traps designed to get the ball out of his hands).
Damion Lee is on the bench, he’ll get some burn, but is far from viable. Rookie Moses Moody is a decent option, but has been all the way out of Kerr’s rotations in these playoffs. To have any chance against Morant though, the blueprint is going to have lots of names and defensive options. Think more Winchester Mystery house and less modern open design.
If I’m throwing a wild curveball out there, I might even try Kuminga for a bit. One thing that was clear from game two is that Morant is feasting on the Warriors on-ball defense because of his quickness and athleticism, so if you’re looking for answers with Payton out…
SMART - Just glancing at how the Warriors have played defense in the first two games, I just think they need to pickup their consistency in rotating and switching. Golden State in known for their high octane and efficient offense. An underrated side of the Warriors I’ve always enjoyed is their defense.
Similar to the current day Grizzlies, that’s how Golden State handled teams in both the regular season and the playoffs. A collective effort will be needed for the Warriors to stop Memphis’ offense.
On behalf of DNHQ, we just want to take a moment in this space to thank Gary Payton and wish him a speedy recovery!