It’s hard to envision this series going six games, and at this rate five might even be a stretch. The Golden State Warriors jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 101-86 victory in Game 1 of their second round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, who gave up a ridiculous number of open shots in the first half and could barely score in the second.
One could look at the score and figure it was a situation where the Warriors were comfortable at home and the Grizzlies can work their way back into this series with some adjustments. Plus, there’s a chance that Mike Conley could return in Game 2 or 3, as he was shooting jumpers before the game while wearing a mask. Conley was ruled out about a half hour before tipoff, and starting point guard Nick Calathes, while an eager and active defender of Stephen Curry, was a complete zero on the offensive end.
Except the Warriors didn’t exactly play a perfect game.
- They committed nine first half turnovers, 16 overall, which led to 18 points for Memphis.
- Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 41 points on 14-of-25 shooting, 18 rebounds and eight assists.
- Draymond Green was in foul trouble from the first quarter on, while Andrew Bogut fouled out in just 24 minutes of action.
So how did the Warriors cover a 10-point spread that seemed fairly large for a second round playoff game?
So much depth
Golden State got productive minutes from a whopping 10 players — everyone besides David Lee (who played three minutes in his return), Justin Holiday and James Michael-McAdoo (the rookies played the last 35 seconds). Mo Speights can’t guard Randolph, but he scored 10 points in 12 minutes. Festus Ezeli looks far more comfortable against an inside-dominant team like Memphis, and his rejection of Randolph was one of the more memorable plays in this game. Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston seem like different players after their struggles in Game 1 of the New Orleans series, and Andre Iguodala makes up for his uneven offensive play (mostly because his struggles from the foul line cause him to avoid contact near the basket) with quietly important work defensively — Kerr described Iguodala as “playing center field” in the fourth quarter.
Contrast that to the Grizzlies, who got next to nothing from Jeff Green, Beno Udrih, Vince Carter and Kosta Koufos. Those four combined for 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists on 8-of-23 shooting.
So many threes
When the Warriors whipped the ball around, shifting the Grizzlies’ attention from one side of the floor to the other and back again, Memphis had no answer. The Warriors knew that they had an advantage against a team with Randolph playing a more traditional style of power forward in that there was no way the Grizzlies could cover the perimeter. The Warriors went 13-of-28 from distance, and Green torched Memphis with four early threes. The Grizzlies made three three-pointers as a team in this game.
Way too comfortable
“I thought we were a lot less anxious and jittery to open up the series. That first game against New Orleans, it was so much emotion and kind of just ‘Playoffs are finally here,'” said Curry, who perhaps took a few too many chances with fancy passes but still ended up dazzling the crowd with a 22-point, 7-assist, 4-steal afternoon.
“My sense of just how our team was feeling going into the game was we were pretty comfortable and pretty composed and just ready for the moment and didn’t try to do too much and win the game in the first three minutes — like we did pretty much every game in the last series. I think we’re kind of maturing in that sense and getting better in every game.”
Yeah, this team was loose. Curry was dancing in the paint during pregame warmups — some version of the “running man.”
The Warriors weren’t nervous or rusty, but they weren’t precise either.
“I loved the effort. We were sloppy with the ball. That was one thing that really bothered me,” said Steve Kerr. “There were a lot of things we didn’t like (about the Warriors’ defensive performance in the first half). We got lost on cutters several times. We actually got very fortunate. They missed some layups where we lost cutters going backdoor.”
Maybe if Memphis gets Conley back for Tuesday night’s game, and makes their layups, and the Warriors don’t make 50.6% of their shots and 46.4% of their threes, they’ll have a shot at making this series more competitive. But what if the Warriors cut down on the mistakes and take their defensive effort from the second half (when the Grizzlies scored just 34 points on 38.2% shooting) and expand that to four quarters? It doesn’t look good for Memphis, it just doesn’t.
— I’ve never seen anything like it. The Warriors Jr. Jam Squad — easily the most popular Oracle Arena diversion other than the team itself — was finishing up their dance routine to an MC Hammer song. Tony Allen, the only bright spot for Memphis other than Gasol and Randolph in this game, walked through midcourt (and the dancing kids) before the performance was over. The crowd went nuts, almost like what would happen if Blake Griffin poured water on a Warriors fan in Oakland instead of Los Angeles. The crowd booed Allen each time he touched the ball after that, and probably will keep doing so for the rest of Allen’s career — or this series, at least.
— “It was funny because honestly I don’t think he realized he was walking through their dance routine. And all of a sudden he realizes it, and he tried to dap the little kids up, and the fans did not pay any attention,” said Green.
“I don’t think he meant anything about it, but it was hilarious. I just started laughing the entire time. But I think he’ll see some boos for the rest of his time.”
— It’s not a good sign for the Grizzlies that Allen’s infamous stroll was their most memorable move throughout Sunday’s game.
— Harrison Barnes played a nearly perfect game: 4-for-4 from the field, no turnovers, 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes.
— He had four turnovers, but the Warriors had to like Klay Thompson’s mindset in this game. He was more of a playmaker than we’re used to seeing, dishing out six assists (one less than Curry) while scoring 18 points.
— The Warriors’ coaching and training staffs are so much better this year. To be able to take such a long break (they had seven days off between games) and look so fresh both physically and mentally shows that this organization understands the science of rest and recovery as well as any in pro sports.
“I thought the energy level was great. We were well-rested obviously, but I think our conditioning and just the physicality going into the game was nice,” Curry said.
— Speaking of physicality, expect the Grizzlies to muck it up quite a bit on Tuesday night.
“I didn’t think the game was physical at all,” said Gasol. “We didn’t bring it to that point yet. I hope the next game we have to bring it to our advantage, which is that. So hopefully we’ll do that, and it’s not easy.”
That’s the problem. This isn’t the ’90s, when the team with the weight advantage down low can bruise a team into submission. Golden State’s speed, ball-movement and floor spacing are making things easy for them with plentiful open opportunities from distance as well as in the paint. The Warriors are confident, comfortable and rolling with the same demeanor, style and level of play as we saw during their 67-win regular season, and the Grizzlies struggled to keep up in Game 1.