OK, so it won’t be a sweep.
Ha. I’ll be chewing on the tough leather of my predictions for this series for awhile, so I might as well get started. Unfortunately, the sinister turn of this series comes at the worst possible time for my blogging availability, as I’m tied up for the next several days. The best I can do is take a couple of minutes right now to broad brush what I see happening, and hopefully rely on my blog friends (and enemies) to fill in the rest:
The Demise of Draymond, AKA the Rise of Gasol:
Charles Barkley: “Green’s a little fella. A little fella can only be so tough.”
Chris Webber: “His momma knows he ain’t 6-7.”
Steve Kerr: “The league has changed.”
Has it changed, Steve Kerr? Has it changed enough to start Draymond Green at power forward in the playoffs against Duncan and Splitter? Against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? Against Mozgov and Love? Against Ibaka and Kanter/Adams?
Against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol?
I have been arguing all season long that Draymond Green is a small forward/stretch-four, in that order, and not a starting power forward who can bang down low all season long and all playoffs long against the monsters in the paint. I’ve been arguing all season long that Green should be matched up against the LeBrons, Melos, Durants, Kawhis and Jeff Greens of the league, not the Randolphs and Gasols. And all season long, the giant-hearted Draymond Green has proven me wrong.
How about now? After having all but given up on the issue, will I be right in the end? It appears to me that the fate of this series hinges, more than anything else, on this question.
The Grizzlies are completely and utterly focused on punishing Draymond down low. And it’s been working. Big kudos to Dave Joerger for making a great adjustment: Instead of posting Gasol up against the Draymond cross-match, which is not Gasol’s game, he’s finding Gasol on the move, on cuts and in pick and roll. Dray was helpless against it in this game.
Kerr wound up giving Dray a lot more double team help in the second half, which worked well. Let’s see if he goes to this counter from the opening bell next game.
A Jump Shooting Team: Was Barkley right all along? After being among the league leaders in points in the paint all season long, the Warriors have been forced by the Grizzlies to live outside. And the Warriors, quite obviously, have been living and dying with the jumper.
Jerry West also made this point in an interview earlier in the year, in what I think was an implicit criticism of Steve Kerr, if you were listening closely. I think West is right, but I also think the Warriors’ management are complicit in this, with their personnel decisions.
Andrew Bogut: Can’t post up, deathly afraid to take the ball to the rim on pick and roll. Andre Iguodala: A slasher who’s afraid to slash. Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes: Can’t get to the rim off the dribble.
Now Kerr: The Grizzlies have completely scouted his offense, no doubt helped by battling the Spurs for so many years. There are no backcuts, no alley oops, nothing at all going to the basket.
Kerr gave up almost completely on his offense in the second half, and went to high pick and roll. Which the Grizzlies blitzed ferociously. And Curry did a great job in the second half in making the right pass.
There’s only one problem with that pass in Steve Kerr’s system. It’s not a pass that leads to a drive and a layup. It’s a pass that results in another pass.
Because the best pick and roll big man on the team, and one of the very best in the entire league, is rotting on Steve Kerr’s bench.
I have a feeling that right now, as I type, Jerry West is chewing on Joe Lacob’s bloody ear.
The Great Disappearing Act of Andrew Bogut: 24 minutes last game, 22 this game. Gasol and Randolph feasting inside and out. If Andrew Bogut was not paid $48 million for this matchup, than which?
I was disgusted in the first half watching Bogut shy away from attacking the basket in pick and roll. Watching him cause turnovers by failing to make himself available under the rim to a driving Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. How does a player this size, playing with Curry and Thompson, fail to draw a free throw in a game like this, in a matchup like this? It’s shameful. CRAVEN.
Remember when Steve Kerr kept insisting that he intended to finish games with Andrew Bogut? I predicted at the time that it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t.
Klay Thompson: I stated before the series, and again before this game, that Tony Allen can’t guard Klay. And he can’t. The Warriors started each half with a simple curl for Klay, both of which he buried in Allen’s mug.
8 of 13 shooting. So why only 13 shots? There are certain coaches in the NBA who would forsake a motion offense that isn’t working, to milk what is.
Stephen Curry: I also felt that the Grizzlies couldn’t effectively guard Curry with Mike Conley and Courtney Lee. And while these defenders have no doubt made Curry work, and their quickness clearly bothers him, I think the jury is still out on this question. I see a Curry who is missing wide open shots.
And making a lot of turnovers. This is a sign of an offense that is being completely shut down. When the Warriors went to spread floor pick and roll in the second half, the turnovers disappeared.
Harrison Barnes: One of the Warriors’ best players in this game, particularly when guarding Randolph and Gasol in the post. On offense, did a much better job making himself available to break the Curry blitz. Or perhaps the Warriors did a better job finding him.
The Thirty Point Line: The line I set before the playoffs, which Draymond Green’s plus Barnes’ scoring would have to exceed in order for the Warriors to win. This game: 22 points.
Draymond is going to have to do a lot better than 1-8, and 1-6 from three. The Warriors’ entire stretch the floor, move the ball, find the open man offense is predicated on him being a real outside scoring threat. Games like this not only kill him, they kill Curry, who is getting swarmed.
And they’ll kill the Warriors, if they continue.
The Forgotten Man: Could the Warriors not use some size in this series? Could they not use someone who can take the ball to the rim, draw fouls, and shoot 80% from the line (historically)? Would Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph not be vulnerable to pick and roll with a spread floor? Has David Lee not fought Gasol and Randolph tooth and nail in the past, and given as good as he got when paired with a decent front court partner?
The answer seems obvious to all, even Jarrett Jack, who tweeted support for Lee during the game. Which means something is up, seriously up, with Steve Kerr’s refusal to bring his two time All-Star power forward into the game. Perhaps David Lee is truly too injured to play. Perhaps he’s washed up.
Or perhaps he and Kerr have butted heads too often this season over Kerr taking his job away, and Kerr’s insistence on jamming him into the triangle, and refusal to let him play pick and roll. Perhaps there is friction behind the scenes, and Kerr simply doesn’t trust him. Or doesn’t want to have to trust him.
Will this continue even now that Mo Speights has gone down?
This series is far from over. If the Warriors win game four they regain control of the series, and this might all wind up seeming like a bad dream on the yellow brick road to Oz.
But if Draymond Green and the Warriors go down in this series in the ugly fashion of the last two games, I have a feeling that the forgotten man will suddenly be remembered by all.