5 Things We Learned From the Warriors and Grizzlies Series
*Photo via USA Today
1. On multiple levels, the Warriors have proven they are a very tough team. Down two games to one, Golden State came out with a revamped game plan and new fire in Game 4 in order to cruise to a 101-84 victory over the Grizzlies. This play carried over to game five, even after a dominant start from Zach Randolph, and Game 6 to win the Warriors their second-round series.
Everyone knew game four was huge test for the Warriors but their ability to continually outplay Memphis in the final two games proves they are an extremely motivated and focused club. Most importantly, this speaks volumes about Coach Steve Kerr and his staff who hadn’t allowed his team to lose more than two games in a row all season. The experience, knowledge, and championship resume of Kerr commands the respect of his players particularly at this point in the season. As the Warriors did leading into game four, the club will continue to rely on Kerr’s expertise going forth with their path to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
2. Steve Kerr’s ability to draw up a winning plan in a second-round series leads us to the second bit we’ve learned from this series. Coach Kerr’s game plan was so effective because the Warriors are an extremely versatile team. Now, this just as easily could have been stated before the Memphis series but the way the Warriors dominated the series reaffirms this statement (and also expands it in ways).
While we refer to the Warriors as a fast-paced team with uncanny shooting ability and ridiculous guard play, none of that would be possible if it wasn’t for the hounding defense and ability to rebound. While Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are topnotch defenders, many expected them to be outplayed by arguably the leagues best frontcourt, until they weren’t.
The Warriors out rebounded the Grizzlies in four out the six games in this series. While Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were able to reach their respective averages in points, the Warriors front-court was able to contain either of them from having a breakout game or control the series to favor their opponent. Golden State’s defense was able to put incredible pressure on Memphis’ Mike Conley and Jeff Green, forcing them to particularly poor performances (more so Jeff Green) in this series.
3. The Warriors are the best team in the NBA (without donning any ring ware). Again, this was a conclusion drawn up before the playoffs but was reaffirmed through the Memphis series. I don’t think its possible to put enough clarity that Memphis would have been an extremely tough out to any team who faced them, and the Warriors essentially handled them with ease. Not only that, but the Warriors proved they could win in multiple ways: their top-notch defense, hustle, relentless firepower, and of course with the leagues reigning MVP, Stephen Curry.
Look for Golden State to move past the Rockets with particular ease as well. This team has remarkable depth, and players at every position that can play both ways, an incredible coaching staff, and an extreme focus to be the NBA’s next champions.
4. While Memphis’ season is over, they have big moves to make if they want to remain a factor in the West. The best way to see where they can improve to compete for a title is to look at the best team in the league (the Warriors who just ousted them) and then to themselves and recognize that they are an extremely flawed team.
While I have found Memphis’ style of play to be a particularly good style of basketball, they don’t have the right pieces to execute it. With such good big men, Z-Bo or Gasol are bound to get doubled and they need shooters on the perimeter to kick it out to (because they are also two of the best passing big men) for a sure bucket.
This means an offseason acquisition of a higher-tier shooting guard than Courtney Lee. They need a shoot guard who get them immediate points when they are stuck. A Jimmy Butler signing would be ideal for Memphis if they can afford to give him the cash he deserves. Also, they need a knock down three-point shooter coming off the bench (a la Tayshaun Prince).
5. If the Grizzlies don’t make the proper free agent moves, or make assurances that they will, expect Marc Gasol to be donning a new uniform come next season. This gets me excited as a Knicks fan (although it may be a pipe dream). With Memphis’ hot start there’s no doubt expectations were higher than a second round loss. Memphis continues to be force in the West but can never seem to get over the hump. Will Marc Gasol stick it out with the city that has raised him into the superstar he is today or will he set his sights on brighter lights and higher hopes for bling?