The Memphis Grizzlies looked like they were shot out of a cannon to start this game, with Zach Randolph supplying all of the gunpowder. He hit a baseline jumper, scored inside, even hit a three. The Warriors were down 23-10, and the Oracle Arena crowd wondered if Game 4 was just a mirage.
This would prove not to be the case, as Golden State rallied over the last 3:26 of the first quarter to turn that 13-point deficit into a one-point lead. There are levels of bedlam. When Draymond Green went and-one over Vince Carter, the temperature went up a few degrees. Then Stephen Curry hit a step-back three, yelled and gestured to the crowd. Oracle has not been louder this season.
Golden State would send the crowd into a frenzy on several other occasions in a 98-78 win that puts the No. 1 seed firmly back in control of this series. The Warriors have a 3-2 lead, and they’re guaranteed at least one more playoff game. Unless Memphis figures out very quickly how to stop the bleeding that never really slowed after that late-first quarter run (and really, the first eight and a half minutes of Game 5 served as a skimpy band-aid for the Grizzlies after getting scraped in Game 4), the Warriors will play at least two more home playoff games.
The turnaround since the Grizzlies took a 2-1 lead has been dramatic, as these teams’ differences are going in Golden State’s favor.
How they’re similar
The Warriors and Grizzlies are two NBA teams that can defend. That’s pretty much it.
How they’re different
1. They’re almost complete opposites on the offensive end, with Memphis preferring to work inside-out while Golden State bombs away. It works out great for the Grizzlies when they’re ahead, but it must be agonizing for Memphis fans to watch their team try to stay in games after falling behind by double-digits when they act like the three-point shot is a passing fad.
The Grizzlies went 1-for-10 through the first three quarters from behind the arc. If you were paying attention in the first paragraph, you already know who made the one.
2. It’s tempting to look at the Warriors’ three-point shooting numbers and say that’s the one and only difference. They’re 41-for-91 (45.1%) in their three wins in this series after going 14-for-30 on Wednesday, and they went 12-for-52 (23.1%) in their two losses. Boom. Series figured out.
However, these teams are drastically different in terms of depth and that showed in Game 5. Led by a very welcome outburst from Andre Iguodala (“When he makes shots, it’s kind of gravy for us,” said Steve Kerr.), the Warriors’ bench created a mammoth offensive advantage.
Warriors bench: 15-for-25, 32 points Grizzlies bench: 6-for-23, 17 points
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) May 14, 2015
The defense wasn’t bad, either.
“Their bench has been tremendous. I don’t think Shaun Livingston gets the credit he deserves as a low length defender and he gives them stability,” said Dave Joerger.
“You look at their bench, Iguodala was plus-23. Tonight Shaun Livingston plus-21. David Lee was plus-18. That’s a huge boost for them.”
That’s right, Lee! He came in and went to work, grabbing rebounds over Randolph (who appeared to tire himself out a bit with his furious first few minutes; Z-Bo struggled throughout a lot of this game when the Warriors pushed the pace) and setting screens. Lee scored six points, which doesn’t sound like much but it was the first time he’d reached that total in well over a month.
The Grizzlies lost Tony Allen to a hamstring injury. Into the starting lineup went Jeff Green, who hadn’t done a whole lot off the bench in this series. The reserve who played the most for Memphis in this game was Vince Carter (20 minutes), and his prime was more than a few seasons ago.
The Warriors’ eight-man rotation while this game mattered included the five starters and three very well-known reserves who’ve made enormous sacrifices this season. The Grizzlies gave 18 minutes to Nick Calathes, who doesn’t look or play like a guy we should be seeing in the playoffs. Not that anyone thought Mo Speights being out for the series was a crippling loss, but it hasn’t even been noticed.
— The Warriors welcomed Floyd Mayweather to Oracle, and the fans (mostly) welcomed him with a lot of booing.
— Who would’ve thought that Klay Thompson would play more minutes than anyone on either team after how he started this game? He had 21 points, which means he led everyone in scoring, too.
— Curry scored 18 points on six made threes. He also had six steals, which was ridiculous. But even when Kerr was asked about Curry after the game, he brought up the backup point guard.
“I think Shaun Livingston — I know you asked about Steph, but the ball pressure in general in the last two games has been fantastic. Shaun and Klay and Steph, really getting into the ball-handlers and trying to make them uncomfortable.”
Then Kerr gave Curry a compliment.
“We’ve slid him over to off the ball with Conley handling it and getting Klay on him. But it doesn’t mean Steph can’t be disruptive with a bunch of steals. He’s very smart off the ball. He reads everything and he knows the play that’s coming.”
— James Michael McAdoo scored four points over the last few minutes of the game, and his name is so long that the last “o” is left out of the box scores they hand out to the media.
— Iguodala had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Randolph finished with 13 points. You could’ve asked every basketball fan in the world if Iguodala would score more points than Randolph before the game and they all would’ve said “no,” and then Randolph was the star of the first five minutes. Basketball!
— I’m still not sure how Harrison Barnes’ groin didn’t rip in half after he did the splits near the end of the first half. I’m also wondering when he’s going to convert on one of those crazy dunk attempts in traffic. It’d blow the roof off of Oracle if one actually went in. (Barnes was very good in this game, and he along with Curry kept the Warriors in the game in the first quarter before their game-changing run.)