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Win or go home: Warriors host Grizzlies for 8th seed
Wow, what a game. Then again, what a season!
Wow, what a game. Then again, what a season!
The Golden State Warriors have dealt with adversity this year since before the season even started, so it makes sense that their chase for a spot in the playoffs would go down to the wire. After losing an incredibly close game to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors have one more chance to squeeze their way into the playoffs when the Memphis Grizzlies come to Chase Center tonight. The winner gets the 8th seed and a date with the Utah Jazz in the playoffs; the loser’s season is over.
It’s a significantly softer opponent than the defending champs, but this one of those rare, literal “must-win” games that will end the loser’s season, so now is not the time for the insouciant version of the Warriors to show up. And in a single-elimination environment like this, anything can happen.
So strap in, and get ready for another white-knuckled night of Warriors basketball.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs Memphis Grizzlies
WHEN: Friday, May 21st, 2021 // 6:00 pm PST <—note the early start
Reviewing the homework - lessons learned and adjustments to make
The Warriors were damn close to pulling off a huge upset over the Lakers on Wednesday. Some of the reasons it didn’t happen could be expected (turnovers, LeBron), but some of the results were surprising (like the fact that Golden State only lost the rebounding battle by three boards, or that the Lakers racked up a 27-19 assist advantage).
First, the similarities.
Much like the Lakers, Memphis is a stout defensive team - their 7th-ranked defense gave up just one additional point per 100 possessions compared to the Warriors and their 5th ranked defense this season. They’re top ten in all aspects of rebounding, and according to basketball reference, they keep opponents effective field goal shooting down to just 53%, which falls in at 12th best.
Even for an experienced Warriors offense that has become accustomed to dealing with the tremendous pressure applied to Curry, generating offense won’t be an easy task.
Also, similar: Memphis has a big man that the Warriors will need to plan around. Jonas Valanciunas had a big 23 point, 23 rebound night (and three blocked shots) in Memphis’ 100-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs. He had 29 and 16 in the Warriors recent meeting against the Grizzlies, so even though Golden State won that game fairly handily, it’s going to take a team effort to survive the assault down low.
Of course, the Grizzlies lack both the star power, and the veteran savvy of the Lakers - and though the points per possession aren’t too far apart, there are numerous reasons that the Lakers had the #1 defense this season. Remember too, that Curry went off for 46 points and 9 assists the last time the Grizzlies tried to defend him. This is a young, talented team Golden State is facing, but should be a noticeable step down from the Lakers.
So what are the adjustments?
It’s hard to argue too much with coach Steve Kerr’s approach so far. He dragged whatever was left of this roster into fighting form, and unearthing Poole and Toscano-Anderson has done more to fix this team’s bench woes than anything tried over the past five years. But once again, I do have a request for a minor tweak that I think will help the team win.
There was a play last night where Curry had the ball stripped on a quick double team precipitated by Kent Bazemore coming over to set a screen. While the Warriors certainly won’t be abandoning Kerr’s pass-happy system anytime soon, I’d argue that it’s time to allow more isolation attacks. Especially for Curry and Andrew Wiggins, who have both been lethal this year in isolation, sometimes bringing more people into the mix can be detrimental.
People love to talk up their team’s “Curry stopper” but the reality is more often that Curry hangs numbers on them. Against Los Angeles, Curry scored just 0.6 points per play in the pick-and-roll, zero points off screens, but a solid 1.25 points per play in isolation. Sure, it’s just one game, but I feel like it’s fair to point out that it was a scoring pace that would have led the league this year. According to Synergy, Curry’s isolation scoring rate on the season puts him in the 91st percentile.
Wiggins is no slouch in this department either. Nearly one-tenth of his offensive plays were isolation this year, and he scored 1.037 points per play. In fact, looking at his season statistics now, I wouldn’t mind a bit more Wiggins all over the place.
This would also help alleviate another factor - probably the primary factor - in the loss to the Lakers: turnovers. The Warriors only generated 19 assists in that game, while racking up 20 turnovers. While a many of the sloppier ones can be cleaned up via better execution, calling more solo plays for Curry and Wiggins will reduce Curry’s exposure. He had 3 assists to 6 turnovers against LA, many of them resulting from him trying to eek the ball past the entire kitchen sink that the Lakers were throwing at him all night.
You can't We Believe if you don't start with the 8th seed.
Almost forgot! It’s Friday! Let’s party!
For today, I’m going to take you to a new release. This is one of my very favorite bands, The Lillingtons, covering another very cool band called Enemy You. It’s got a real classic skate punk vibe to it, and the bridge sections and breakdowns are so good. I have the link queued up to my favorite song on the album, but if you like it, listen to the whole thing.
I’m out till Monday. Good luck tonight, Dub Nation. Here’s hoping I get more Warriors basketball when I return to civilization.