“We sucked,” Stephen Curry said after the game, and he wasn’t lying.
The mighty Golden State Warriors cruised into Memphis having won four straight, and coming off a dominant victory against the Clippers and a good win vs. the Jazz. Memphis was without Mike Conley, their best player, Chandler Parsons, their third-best player, Vince Carter, their seventh best player, James Ennis, their backup small forward, and Brandon Wright, their backup center. The Warriors beat Memphis by 50 in their first matchup last season.
Grizzlies 110, Warriors 89. At one point Memphis led by 30, their biggest lead of the season, vs. any team, at any point.
Sports, man. Probability does not equal inevitability. And you can never, ever count out these Grizzlies, who have won six straight, and are 6-1 since Conley went down.
Takeaways, each in the form of one word:
Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph all hit more 3-pointers (one each) than Klay Thompson (zero) and as many combined as Steph Curry. Tony Allen (19 points) outscored every Warrior not named Kevin Durant. The Grizzlies held an advantage from 3-point range until garbage time. JaMychal Green outrebounded Draymond Green and both Warriors centers. The Grizzlies got 30 points off 23 Warriors turnovers. And the Warriors shot only 60 percent from the free-throw line.
So when Curry said “We sucked,” he was not kidding. It wasn’t one thing or five things going wrong for Golden State. It was absolutely everything, and make no mistake, much of it was caused by what Memphis did.
The Grizzlies were everywhere, physically, vs. the Warriors. They bodied and controlled them, they challenged and bumped them, they played the kind of defense they’re so renowned for. Watch Tony Allen bust this screen and get into the contest on Thompson.
In other surprising news, Klay Thompson did not score 60 because Tony Allen is not Monta Ellis.
The Grizzlies were like that all night. You knew they were there the whole time.
The Warriors had 23 turnovers. Of those, 11 were bad-pass turnovers. They just couldn’t hold onto the ball. Half the time Draymond Green was slinging the ball to imaginary Warriors. (Maybe he’s making up teammates the way he makes up perceived slights.) The other half of the time, Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, and Anderson Varejao were dropping bad passes.
Warriors fans will often say that the biggest thing that went wrong in Games 5,6, and 7 of the Finals, outside of Draymond Green’s suspension, was Steve Kerr playing Anderson Varejao long minutes. Andrew Bogut was injured, and Varejao struggled. I’ve often thought that Varejao gets too much blame for the issues.
He got appropriate blame for the debacle Saturday. Varejao couldn’t defend to range, couldn’t contain in pick and roll, couldn’t handle passes dealt to him at point-blank range. It was a rough, rough go, and Varejao finished with a minus-18 in 18 minutes. It was rough. JaVale McGee finished with a respectable minus-2, but he was also really bad, chasing blocks and falling down to allow wide-open layups.
Zaza Pachulia was out with an injury, and while when facing Memphis, no one gets to play that card right now, the Warriors bigs were so bad it really stood out.
The Grizzlies hedged in the pick-and-roll with Marc Gasol, switched with JaMychal Green, dropped to contain with Zach Randolph, and blitzed with Tony Allen. Teams always talk about throwing different looks at the Warriors, but the Grizzlies actually did so, and that helped them keep contain. That’s a difference between a good defensive team and a great defensive team. Golden State missed looks they can hit, but Memphis also executed the game plan you would want, even short-handed.
A nickname I’ve given Marc Gasol for a mythical beast. Gasol finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and shot 6 for 12 from the field, despite facing constant double-teams. He hit turnaround shots on Draymond Green, found JaMychal Green (2 for 2 from deep) on corner 3s, and generally was superb. Gasol is carrying this team with the injuries and playing like a franchise player should.
He also absolutely dominated Draymond Green when the Warriors left him in single coverage.
The Warriors had a terrible game. Curry missed shots he usually makes, the offense had no rhythm, Green and Thompson looked completely out of sorts. It’s true that last season, the Warriors never had games like this, but this isn’t last year’s team. That much is evident. The Warriors will bounce back and everything will be fine. Andre Iguodala missed this game and while, again, the Grizzlies had way more injuries, Iguodala’s injury leaves them without a calming presence defensively that unlocks their vaunted smallball unit.
Throw this game away and never think of it again.
This is what Memphis does. Every time people bury them, put them away, say there’s no chance, they prove people wrong. Tony Allen is constantly underrated for his impact because he doesn’t have a great jumper, but even on offense he was great. This Memphis squad plays together, and coach David Fizdale has done a tremendous job this season. Signature win for Memphis.