By Sir William G. McCray, ObnoxiousTV
The Golden State Warriors won the all-important Game 5 over the Memphis Grizzlies 98-78 on Wednesday night.
It was some star power in the Oracle cheering for the Warriors with a few of the Oakland Radiers in the building and Floyd Mayweather. The World Champ was booed we shown on the screen and presence announced due his refusing to sport the Golden State t-shirt when offered.
2014-15 NBA MVP Stephen Curry scored 18 points, all on three-pointers, but it was Klay Thompson who led the Warriors with 21 points.
Zach Randolph had 11 points in the first quarter, but the suffocating Warriors defense limited him the rest of the way, and Randolph finished with 13 points.
The series returns to the “Grindhouse” in Memphis for Game 6 on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Early on it looked as if it would be a long night for the Warriors, the way Memphis forward Zach Randolph made everything he hoisted. The Grizzlies were humming in the first quarter.
Then it all stopped. Memphis came to California and got caught up in a drought. The Warriors’ 3-point barrage stole the show Wednesday. But the Warriors won Game 5 comfortably, 98-78, because their defense was off-the-charts good.
After the first quarter, the Warriors shut down the Grizzlies. In the second and third quarters combined, Memphis totaled 32 points on 31.1 percent shooting. The Grizzlies looked helpless. They couldn’t buy a bucket if Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. was paying. And he might’ve wanted to help the Grizzlies the way Warriors fans booed him in his courtside seat Wednesday.
Warriors head to Game 6 in Memphis on Friday with a chance to close out the series because the defense has turned the tide of the series. But this was the reality all along. Memphis bottled up the Warriors in Games 2 and 3. But as long as the Warriors score 100 points, the Grizzlies can’t win.
After Game 4, Memphis coach Dave Joerger concluded his team would have to score 100 points at some point. But if the Warriors are defending like they did in Game 5, he can forget about it.
“I think I said the first couple of games our defense was good enough,” Steve Kerr noted after his team held Memphis to 1.6 points per minute. “I was wrong. It wasn’t good enough. This is what it’s going to take, this kind of defense.”
In Game 4, the Warriors used a gimmick to slow the Grizzlies. The Warriors had Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green each defend the Grizzlies’ worst shooter, Tony Allen, which allowed them to help in the paint. But Allen missed Wednesday’s game with a strained hamstring. The Warriors switched back to a straight-up defense and still frustrated the Grizzlies’ offense.
While the attention was focused on the Warriors drilling nine first-half 3-pointers, it was the defense that seized control. A nearly four-minute scoring drought by Memphis in the second quarter helped the Warriors push the lead from four to 12. Then Memphis was held to one basket over a three-minute stretch in the third quarter that bubbled the Warriors’ advantage from 10 to 17.
The Warriors’ plan, which began in Game 3, is three-fold. First, and it’s key, is ball pressure from the guards. Klay Thompson switched over to Mike Conley, and the Memphis point guard hasn’t been the same since. But also, Shaun Livingston and Stephen Curry are ballhawking aggressively, taking a page from the Grizzlies.
The second component: the Warriors are doubling, or at least aggressively helping, when Randolph and Marc Gasol get the ball inside. Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes — along with David Lee off the bench — are working to stay in front of Gasol and Randolph in the post. Even when the Grizzlies’ bigs do get the ball, they aren’t nearly as deep thanks to the Warriors’ forwards holding their ground.
Once Gasol and Randolph get the ball, Andrew Bogut is coming over to protect the rim and a guard– mostly Curry, who finished with a playoff career-high six steals — is collapsing down to swipe at the ball. And even when the players are left one-on-one, Green has done a much better job of contesting. He’s learned some of their moves and is taking away their first options.
That leads to point No. 3. With all the pressure, the Warriors are hoping Memphis’ post players dish the ball back outside. And the Warriors are going all out to chase them off the 3-point line or contest their shots.
After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Randolph finished with 13. Gasol needed 22 shots to get 18 points. Memphis finished with just 30 points in the paint and went 4 of 15 from 3-point range.
“This unit is very dynamic because we’ve been together for a year so we can kind of understand each other,” Andre Iguodala said. “Just the way we’re moving out there and we’re all in sync. It’s hard to really describe.”
It was the kind of defensive performance that reminded viewers why the Warriors can actually be champions.