The Golden State Warriors won a thriller in Memphis despite Draymond Green not playing at all in the second half. The ejection was moot, while the dubs had a replacement for the defensive star. Jordan Poole remains the revelation of the season.
1. Warriors: Steve Kerr almost bet
If you, as the favored team, change your line-up to react to the opposition, this is often interpreted as a weakness. Just ask Avery Johnson, who benched his center in Game 1 for the 2007 1-8 game against the Golden State Warriors to Erick Dampier and was heavily criticized for the loss.
15 years later, Warriors coach Steve Kerr surprised everyone with his decision to include Gary Payton II in the starting lineup and sacrifice shooting star Jordan Poole for it. The train of thought was understandable, after all the Warriors didn’t want to expect Klay Thompson to defend Ja Morant. At the same time, they robbed themselves of their greatest strength, the three-guard formation with Klay, Poole and Stephen Curry.
To make matters worse, Payton himself stood no chance against the Grizzlies superstar and had already picked up three fouls in just over eight minutes of the first half. The measure gave Morant a place to hide in defense. Poole, on the other hand, was cleared to play immediately after the break and it became apparent that this was a big deal for the Grizzlies.
Trae Young still comes under heavy criticism for his defense, Morant isn’t doing much better in that regard, despite looking a lot more active than the Hawks guard. But that also can’t hide the fact that he sticks to every screen and constantly loses sight of his opponents.
Anyway, in Andrew Wiggins, the Dubs had a solid alternative to put the brakes on Morant’s drives and they did it very well. In the third quarter, the point guard managed just one field goal, Memphis as a team only scored 6 points and only stayed in the game thanks to Jaren Jackson’s hot shot Jr.
2. Warriors Small Ball also works without a putting green
The luxury of the three goalkeepers is also that two can be on the pitch at any time. In Game 1, it was Curry and Poole who were hot and ultimately sank Memphis. Payton still had huge defensive influence in the fourth quarter, probably also because Green was gone (more on that later). The dubs could afford a non-shooter.
And they ended up having killer training in the field. Payton acted as center, the three guards and Wiggins were also on the field. At 2.01 meters, the Canadian was the tallest warrior on the field, the Rockets hailed him from the bubble. Despite everything, it worked, mainly thanks to the good work of the offensive board and thanks to Payton, who made forget the absence of the greens at both ends and was the winner of the secret match in the last minutes.
Due to guard penetration, the Grizzlies, who were also playing extremely small, had to rotate a lot. Jackson Jr. may have been the tallest player on the court, but rebounding isn’t one of his strengths. Plus, he spent a lot of time on the perimeter, so rebounds were more secure through positional play and willpower. Golden State grabbed 5 offensive rebounds down the stretch, 16 in 48 minutes.
It could also be due to the timing, after all the hosts only specified that they would advance to the next round 40 hours earlier in Minneapolis, a good 1,300 miles away. It was almost significant that Thompson’s game-winner only came when the Warriors had previously missed three straight shots in a possession.
3. Klay Thompson’s winner, but…
It was one of the few good moments of Thompson’s game. The Splash Brother needed 19 shots for his 15 points, although he played some good passes in the final section, but otherwise his performance was anything but good. When did the 31-year-old miss two free throws in a row?
And when was the last time an adversary specifically attacked Thompson? We don’t remember, but that’s exactly what the Grizzlies did in Morant’s person at the critical moment and they succeeded. Granted, Morant’s speed paired with his ringside finishing skills are unparalleled in the NBA, but it was striking how unlucky Klay was in those situations.
Memphis kept looking for that switch and was able to attack the area. This has not always been the case in the first three quarters, Memphis even clearly lost the duel in the area with 44:56. The Warriors used a lot of switches and the Grizzlies continued to successfully search for Thompson.
“I was playing with anger,” Thompson said of her performance. “André Iguodala came to see me at the end of the game and told me to stay calm.”