After steamrolling through much of the competition in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors continued that trend in the postseason, sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans 4-0 in the first round.
Although we received the opportunity to see Anthony Davis play on national television, this series was hardly close. Besides the dramatics that ensued in Game 3, where Golden State erased a 20-point deficit in the 4th quarter to win the game 123-119, Golden State looked invincible.
Stephen Curry was his normal self, averaging 33.8 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and he knocked down five three-pointers per game as well. His Splash Brother, Klay Thompson averaged 25.0 points and knocked down four three-pointers per game.
With a 40-point game under his belt, followed up by a 39-point performance, Curry has looked deadlier than ever. Him and the Warriors are operating on a level that doesn’t look like it can be matched.
Or can it?
After dismantling the Portland Trail Blazers with ease, winning 4-1, the Memphis Grizzlies are now tasked to defeat Golden State. There’s no stopping the high-powered offense or the lock-down defense … all Memphis can do is hope to slow it down.
The reputation of the Grizzlies is well known; they wear you down with their tough style of play. Anchored by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, it’s their grit that’s their biggest weapon. However, you have to look at Mike Conley and Tony Allen, as they’ll be the ones matched up against Curry and Thompson for most of the game.
Now, before suggesting that switching Allen over to Curry is such a simple decision, take a look at the possible ramifications. By moving Allen over to Curry, Conley would naturally shift to guard Thompson, and this is where problems could arise.
Thompson has made incredible strides this year to improve his game, not only on the offensive side of the floor, but on defense as well. He has developed an all-around game. Part of his improved game is utilizing his size on smaller guards.
Thompson led the Warriors in Points Per Possession (PPP) in the post during the regular season, putting up 0.89 PPP, per Synergy. His PPP on post-ups was higher than notable big men such as Nikola Vucevic, Greg Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins. However, here’s the caveat: Thompson shot just 38 percent from the post, an eight percent difference from his total field goal percentage.
Take the regular-season numbers with a grain of salt. Playing against Memphis, every advantage needs to be exploited, and with the way Thompson has performed so far in the postseason, he should have few issues.
Weight: 175 lbs
Weight: 215 lbs
There’s a significant height and weight difference between the two players, but the impact Conley makes on the floor along with his teammate Randolph is what will dictate the game. Conley has averaged 16 points over three games in the postseason so far, but was inactive in Game 4 and 5 against Portland after undergoing surgery to repair multiple facial fractures.
His status is up in the air for this series.
Randolph has the pleasure of going up against the Swiss Army Knife, Draymond Green. Green, who was incredible all season, continued his dominance against Davis and the Pelicans. In the series, Davis was +35 when Green was off the floor and an incredible -55 when he was on.
If Davis, a transcendent talent, got brutalized by Green, what can we expect from a Randolph? Z-Bo needs to utilize the size advantage against Green to slow down Golden State, in one aspect anyway.
Why such an emphasis on size and scoring? Well, there isn’t much of a size advantage around the board for Golden State, but even with the height disadvantages, Golden State still managed to be elite on both sides of the ball. However, size seems to be the only disadvantage they truly have. What makes scoring so important for Memphis is that it slows down Golden State’s transition game.
Golden State was the only team to break 100 in pace this season, averaging 100.69 possessions per 48 minutes. Their playoff numbers might be deflated because of how quickly some of the games got out of hand.
Scoring also means Golden State didn’t force a turnover.
Golden State led the NBA in points off turnovers, averaging 19.7 points. Taking away that aspect of the game wouldn’t necessarily derail Golden State’s chances completely, but it would make it tougher on them to win.
The blueprint on how to defeat Golden State is cloudy at best, but Memphis might be equipped just enough to steal this series. Whether they do or not is the actual question.