Today was not a very good day for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors had 4 days off between games 2 and 3 and they appeared to be very much rusty in their execution. Their opponents, the Memphis Grizzlies, seemed to be chomping at the bit to get at the rusty Warriors. The combination of those two factors led to a complete 99-89 point shellacking of the team from the Bay by the Grit and Grinders of the East.
Prior to the series kicking off, I boldly predicted that the Warriors were going to be defeated by the Grizzlies in 7 games. I felt like the absence of Mike Conley gave the Warriors a definitely advantage in controlling the tempo or pace of the games in their match-up. Conley has developed a reputation for being a staunch floor general who hardly turns the ball over, runs excellent offensive sets and is hardly (if ever) exposed on defense. He is a quintessential professional point guard. Marry this with the High Post – Low Post set foundation that the Grizzlies built their offense on (having both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph manning the blocks) and the Grizzlies suddenly have a strong grip on controlling the pace of a game. To solidify their style of play they also have the fan favorite, Tony Allen, manning things on defense. Combine all of their strengths with solid back-ups in Jeff Green, Kosta Koufos, Vince Carter, Beno Udrih, and Nick Calathes? You have a complete team with the ability to control the tempo and pace of any game they play.
How does this play to their advantage versus the Warriors?
The Warriors like to play a free-stylish, run and gun type of offense that preys on their opponents’ offensive mistakes. They play very good pressure and on-ball defense; and, they are very quick to convert their opponents turnovers, terrible offense and inability to transition (offense to defense) into points on the other end. The Warriors were so good at this during the regular season that they have now made somewhat of an art of pouncing on the competition. And when their leader (and league MVP) as well as his running mate, Klay Thompson, have it going? It’s almost always a wrap. The problem with their match-up with the Grizzlies is that the Grizz do not make those mental mistakes and do not make too many errors in their execution. Their personnel and their style of play pretty much negates a lot of the advantages the Warriors have in transitioning from defense to offense. This means the Warriors are facing a lot more contested sets and shots; as well as not getting out as often in transition. Advantage Grizzlies.
But nothing is set in stone. One of the reasons the Warriors are so good is that they have lethal scorers in Curry, Thompson, Mareese Speights, David Lee and to some extent Harrison Barnes. They have defensive stalwarts like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. And their bench is also deep. They can easily put up enough points to force the Grizzlies into playing more of an uptempo style game; something the Grizzlies cannot possible sustain over a full 48 minutes (but the Warriors could). So, the Warriors have to figure out what their true identity is going to be going forward or they will be packing their bags really soon. If they can be resilient and figure out a way be more efficient in their execution of sets and how to ultimately impose their own style on their opponents, then I believe they will win the NBA Title this year.
Can they figure it out before it’s too late? Only time can tell. What are your thoughts on the series so far?