Can the Grizzlies Beat the Best of the West?
*Photo via USA Today
5 Key Ways the Grizz can win.
In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the fifth seeded Memphis Grizzlies will take on the conference leading Golden State Warriors. Many look at this series as a mere footnote to the post-season as they expect the Warriors to advance with ease. Though I agree it will be a difficult series for Memphis, if they can capitalize on some advantages, they can elongate the series, giving them as good of a shot as they can get.
1.Get the ball to Randolph and Gasol: controlling tempo
If there is any advantage for Memphis, it’s their inside presence. The best 4-5 tandem in the league comes out of Memphis in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Warriors have a superb interior defense with Andrew Bogut and the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Draymond Green, but if Memphis feeds the paint on nearly every possession, they will be able to create the ball-movement that they might need to get through the tight Golden State defense. The interior play will also allow Memphis to slow the game down, because if the game gets too fast, Golden State wins, and they win easily. Slowing it down gives Memphis their best chance to win.
2.Let Steph get his from outside
I realize this sounds like the worst idea in the world, but hear me out. Stephen Curry, the probably MVP, is an astonishing player. He is dangerous from the three point line, but he is most demoralizing when he is driving and getting his teammates involved. If you make Curry shoot threes, and only threes, he will get his 30 points per game, but he won’t be getting those 12 assists. If you make Curry a jump shooter for the first 36 minutes, and then clamp down in the fourth quarter, his teammates won’t be in rhythm, and will find it more difficult to get it going at that point. If Curry starts distributing early, it will be a long night/series for Memphis
3.Punishing interior defense
The Grizzlies have strong defensive schemes, and talented defensive players, inside and out. This is their best weapon. They need to knock down anyone who comes into the paint, so that they think twice about coming in next time. They will need to make the Warriors ‘live-and-die’ by the three ball. Granted, analysts have been saying that all year, and the Warriors have yet to ‘die’ from it, but Memphis will have to keep Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Harrison Barnes out of the driving lanes if they want any chance of stealing this series.
I know it seems like an obvious point to make, but it’s a necessary one as well. The Golden State Warriors were ranked #1 in Defensive Rating, and #2 in Offensive Rating in the entire NBA this year; if you don’t make shots against them, you don’t win. It’s as simple as that. When the ball goes into Gasol and Randolph, the ball will need to come out quickly, and move at lightning speed to keep that Warrior defense rotating. Once they find the open man, whomever it may be, he will need to consistently drain threes, or the one-dribble 20 footers. Courtney Lee will need to continue his hot shooting, Jeff Green will need to find his touch, Vince Carter will need to get back in the swing of things, Nick Calathas will need to bring the punch from the bench, and even Tony Allen will need to shoot around the 45 percent range.
5.Mike Conley needs to play
Those four points are all well and good, but above all else, Mike Conley needs to be on the court in this series. The perennial all-star talent got clocked in the eye socket in the Portland series, and needed to have surgery to repair it. His eye was swollen shut for 2 days before it got a little better. He now has had around 5 days to let it heal before the start of this series on Sunday, but who knows if he will be on the court, and even if he is, how effective he will be. Nick Calathas has done a superb job filling in for Conley, but Mike makes the offense flow, and gives a legitimate driving, dishing, and scoring threat from the outside that the Warriors will need to plan for. If you’re Memphis, you also need Conley to at least make Thompson or Curry work on the defensive end. Coney is the lynchpin for the Grizzlies. He is their best shot to make this a long series, and to eventually have the possibility of winning. If Conley doesn’t play in this series, it may be the Warriors’ second sweep in a row.
The Grizzlies have a shot here, a slim one, but a shot nonetheless. The blueprint is there for them to steal the series, but it will all come down to execution. However, it does feel as if Memphis will need the ball to fall perfectly for them to win, while Steve Kerr’s group has the inherent advantage.
All in all, my prediction: Golden State Warriors win 4-1