Littlefellas: Grizzlies 99 Warriors 89

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.

28 Responses to Littlefellas: Grizzlies 99 Warriors 89

  1. The things that are funny about tweeting are :

    1 ) you assume your banal thoughts are worth memorializing

    2) you think other people give a rats behind about them

    Not speaking about you specifically, Feltbot. I like your tweets cuz they’re mainly about hoops. I was thinking about Steinmetz, or any other media types moreso, though I don’t follow his twits. Or anyone’s.

    I guess posting on this site is akin to tweeting, for the proletariats, perhapss

  2. Interesting write up.

    How sad Iggie didn’t make the conversation, not that he deserved mention. Other than 5-7 on free throws, Andre had the same stats as Vince Carter.

  3. It may well be that Memphis has a better
    roster. Randolph outplaying Green, Gasol
    outplaying Bogut, Conley outplaying Curry.,
    Offense is a mess but think it has less to do
    with whether Warriors running enough pick
    and rolls or Thmpson shooting enough, nor
    that Memphis knows our plays. This is
    conjecture on my part but it seems to me
    that Kerr asserting himself into the offense
    and not letting Gentry do his job which is
    brilliant at.

    Why anyone would think we were going to
    win with Green and not Lee is beyond me.

    But we still have a chance if the Warriors can
    average 105 points or more a game. It’s simply
    not Warriors ball if we score around 100 points
    per game.

    Defensively we’ve been fine.

    rgg, may be the most insightful poster this year.
    People show go back and read his posts regarding
    the roster not bringing it against good teams. He’s
    had a heathy skepticism all year.

    Fellty, you should not have predicted a sweep against
    Memphis. Have some respect for the sport. But thinking
    we have the best roster in the NBA may have tainted your
    glasses and kept you for seeing that the Warriors roster
    has major flaws. And your saying that the Warriors
    best center just highlights the deep do-d0 the Warriors
    find themselves.

    But all is not lost if Kerr steps aside and just let’s Gentry
    do his job by installing creative plays.
    is Green just highlights

  4. Chemistry—

    We got exactly what we should have expected last night. Curry was only two shots off from having a good game. Drop two more 3s, and he’s 10-21, 4-10 on threes. They wouldn’t have made a difference. As much a concern, only 6 assists—but who was he going to pass to? And again, the turnovers were only symptomatic of the lineup on the floor and their inability to counter Memphis’ defense. Bogut gave the anemic offensive performance we’ve seen from him all his years with the Warriors, with only a few exceptions. I suppose Klay could have gotten more shots, but he was covered well. Klay and Steph still had 43 points, a good but not great outing. They had no good reason to expect Green and Barnes to step up and score.

    It is quite likely that Kerr meant exactly what he said, that all his decisions were made because of his game plan and chemistry. When Lee went down at the beginning of the season and Green stepped up, they started winning. Kerr didn’t want to disrupt that pattern and didn’t all season. The starting lineup never changed, except for injury subs.

    This is utter nonsense.

    Most of the wins were meaningless in terms of preparing for the playoffs against the likes of the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Clippers. They were able to work their edge against the many lesser teams or got breaks with injuries against the better. In many of those games, they still had to depend on spectacular performances from Curry and/or Klay. But against larger, defensive teams, good and average, they stalled or lost.

    If Lee didn’t play significant minutes this season, it’s because he didn’t fit into Kerr’s plan and Kerr thought he would disrupt the chemistry. If Lee can suit up, he will play. Last season he averaged 9 boards and 14 points in the playoffs against a better Clippers team, which went down to the wire the seventh game. And he did it on one leg—he was weeks away from surgery—and without Bogut or Ezeli.

    But nothing has been done to prepare Lee for the playoffs. He has taken few shots, missed many games for no reason given, and only played a few minutes with the starters. He hasn’t been given a chance to get his midrange shot back or work the pick and roll with a capable point guard or develop his other talents in spite of the winning margin the team has had all season. They had plenty of cushion to experiment and get him ready.

    Iguodala, much as we question him, had good numbers in that same playoff series against the Clippers. He averaged 13 points at 50%, 4 assists and 5 boards a game. While he got his minutes this season, he hasn’t opened with the starters, either, but instead has wasted much of his time idling with the struggling subs. More time with the starters in key roles, especially in the first minutes, might have prepared him better as well.

    Get ready, gang, for the possibility that MJax outcoached Kerr in the playoffs. And that the brain trust dropped the ball again in building a marginally better team, all they needed to win.

    • Kerr reminds me of so many new age engineers we’re seeing today elsewhere. They get so caught up in their innovations they miss obvious, important factors. The factor Kerr has overlooked is experience. There’s no way experienced teams who have played together for years, such as the Spurs, Grizzlies, and Clippers, are going to shut down in the playoffs. And, again, the most experience he has comes from Lee and Iguodala.

      • Maui Nellie

        rgg, experience? Compared to the Clippers? Memphis? How much more experience does DJordan and BGriffin (two of their three best players) have over Steph and Klay? And how much experience does a team that’s never played in the West Finals have over the Warriors? Along with Memphis, a franchise that’s played in ONE conference Finals in their history (and were swept), the Clips and Grizz haven’t exactly been a juggernaut when it comes to postseason basketball.

        As for playing together, the Warriors have just as many (key, frontline) players who have played together over the last three years as the Clippers and Grizzlies have, so even that element as it applies to “experience” doesn’t register.

        “But against larger, defensive teams, good and average, they stalled or lost.”

        GSW was a combined 5-2 vs LAC and Memphis during the regular season, which included beating the Clippers late in the season, @Staples, when LAC’s big three were healthy, and when the Clippers were red hot and needing to win to improve their seeding. Yes, the playoffs bring added intensity and preparation, just saying.

        I always felt during the season (and in recent years) that the Warriors were a tougher team mentally than the Clippers were but LAC has really impressed with their postseason performance thus far. In fact, you could make a case they’re the team to beat in the West as of right this minute (imo they’ll make short work of the Rockets).

        That said, looking at how the Clippers series with the Spurs played out, the Warriors should be anything but discouraged being down 2-1, assuming they have as much grit, determination, and toughness as LAC displayed in their first round matchup with SA.

        The Clippers started that series similar to the way the Warriors opened their series vs Memphis, beating the Spurs at home by 15. The Warriors lost their homecourt advantage in Game 2 as did the Clippers, with the Spurs winning in LA to even the series. Both Game 3’s were amazingly similar, the Grizz returning home to blow out the Warriors while the Spurs returned home to annihilate the Clippers by 27. Now the question is can the Warriors regroup like the Clippers did going to Game 4?

        We found out how physically and mentally tough the Clippers were, now it’s the Warriors turn to show what they’re made of? Their “experience” (in comparison to Memphis) is the least of my worries.

        • I didn’t say the series was over.

          I also didn’t say Memphis and the Clippers were great teams, though they might be the best in the West now. But both also have the advantage of large players with experience, three of whom are scoring threats, and these have to be countered. The Warriors have benched their only sizable player with experience to do so. Bogut’s playoff experience, btw, is not long either, either with the Warriors or Bucks, largely because of injury.

          No argument about Klay and Steph. My argument is that the team has to get all its experience effectively on the floor, and they haven’t. Lee and Iguodala have to be put into play.

          The whole team has been built around Barnes, who, while he has played three years, all concede is wet behind the ears. Yet he is a starter. He lacks the skills to push the action and is confident only within a narrow range of options. Green has only one year’s experience as a starter, but I won’t complain. Why he wasn’t made a starter earlier is another matter. See my first sentence in this paragraph.

          5-2 has to be qualified by several factors. Also it isn’t much and doesn’t tell us much about how the Warriors would do against them in a seven game series.

          You made a comment early that has haunted me all season, about the team who won a lot years ago—Houston?—but went out early.

          • “The Warriors have benched their only sizable player with experience to do so. Bogut’s playoff experience, btw, is not long either, either with the Warriors or Bucks, largely because of injury”

            Lee doesn’t have more experience than Bogut in playoffs and he is not their only sizable player with experience. Lee has less playoff experience than atleast 4 players in the team.

        • neither LA nor Mem have been particularly dominant in the post season, but Mem in particular has had a core of players whose primes have overlapped, while LA depends on two bigs whose careers appear to be just starting to jell, particularly griffin. Mem has now reached five consecutive post seasons under two different coaches. this is year one with curry, thompson, green starting under kerr.

          the season Mem was swept in the third round, they also upset the number one seed, OK, favored like GS to go further. the team that swept them was the one and same SA squad that ousted the earlier version of this GS team in the second round. hollins was rewarded that summer with his discharge.

          conley’s speedy recovery has brought the Mem perimeter personnel closer to parity with GS. it’s hardly a shock that they’ve found solid leverage with gasol and randolph against the woeyr bigs, such as they are with the no offense bogut/ezeli, the 6’6 green, speights now sidelined. coaching is predictably a bigger factor in seven game matches and off days to travel and recover.

        • More on the 5-2:

          I’m not going back, but in several of those games you will find extenuating circumstances. In their late season wins against Memphis and the Clippers (this game was close), both teams were fighting for position, which can make them tough but also can take its toll a game or two. The Warriors, however, were well ahead in the standings and were relaxed and healthy. There was no pressure. They had nothing to lose.

          This has changed in the playoffs. The pressure is on. And those games tell us nothing about the adjustments their opponents might make—and have, as we’ve seen with the Clippers and Memphis in the last two games. Teams are getting tougher defensively and their size is having more influence.

          I suspect you will also find in those games that the Warriors were able to get the defense/offense machine going, the uptempo games that enable them to build substantial leads that set opponents on their heels and force them to play catchup. As I’ve argued before, these leads, impressive as they are, can be misleading. Because if they can’t get it going, they can stall. And they have. They’ve struggled with larger teams, even Utah.

          Which is why you need all the experience, versatility, and size you can, especially in the front court.

  5. Illuminating comments, as usual.

    A few of my own:

    1. Bogut hurt his back in Game 1. Remember? Hasn’t looked the same since (realized this from a poster on Lauridsons blog).

    2. Joerger flat-out figured and stopped Kerr’s version of the motion offense.

    3. Isn’t too late to establish a spread floor, high P&R game, even with a healthy DLee? That should have been a practiced option, during the regular season. Well, actually, maybe it’s not too late…

    4. Jerry West apparently likes Shaun Livingston and surely knows he’s a P&R PG. I observed there was a problem between Livingston and DLee, pointed out by Feltbot — in the few P&R with DLee, Livingston rarely threw DLee the ball. Livingston don’t like DLee? Or Kerr didn’t want P&R, wanted “triangle elements” for that 2nd unit?

    5. Curry’s off because the Griz took the Warriors out of their offense.

    6. Curry’s getting banged around running around those off ball motion screens. Put the ball in Curry’s hands.


  6. One can only imagine the excruciating
    anxiety the ever confident Lacob
    is undergoing right now.

  7. as a footnote to our brief exchange over the epithet b.simmons hung on west as the unhappiest man in sports — ostler on has a good piece today about m.gasol’s near-lifelong connection with the west famiglia.

  8. Felt, the Warriors win tonight?

    If they do, they win the series.

    If not…

    I think the Warriors win tonight, a sentimental hunch.

  9. OK, time to get pumped up!

    In the 2nd. round of the NCAA tourney, Davidson took on the much larger—Roy Hibbert—Georgetown and were probably 10 point dogs. With 15 minutes to go, Curry’s Wildcats were down 16 points. This is a loss in college basketball. The thing that amazed me was that the guys didn’t look down at all, in fact they looked refreshed. They believed in themselves.

    There wasn’t a pro prospect on the team other than Curry. They were smaller, though tough and disciplined, and had limited skills. It wasn’t that they were counting on Curry to bail them out, though he did go on a shooting tear. Rather Curry brought out everything that they had, and it shows in this 2 minute clip. Note Lovedale’s block of Hibbert @1:00. Lovedale, another Nigerian, was my hero.

    Note Curry at the bottom.

    Announcers have talked about how much Curry has matured. It’s the kind of thing Adam Lauridson would say, and I believe he has. This is complete bullshit. Instead, we’ve had to sit and wait for his talents to be recognized, and it’s not clear this has happened yet. Curry is a natural, and you see all his abilities back when he was a sophomore in college—to create his shot and shoot off screens, to find lanes for drives in traffic, to improvise, scatter the defense, and find the open man.

    Go Dubs. They can do it. And give the game to Curry and his teammates, Kerr, and give Curry the pieces he needs, Joe Lacob, and turn him loose.

  10. How warriors can win ? Make those damn open 3s. Warriors missing contested 3s but missing lot of open 3s too.

    • Mem is one of the few teams with perimeter and team defense (plus coaching of course) to take the woeyr offense out of its comfort zone, particularly rhythm. GS is facing a situation it rarely had in the regular season — significant adjustment on both ends of the floor. from top opposition defenses, they will get a pass from facing SA, and will at most have to play either Chi or Atl but not both. the other blog has whinging from several regulars how the Mem style bores them, but hoops fans should welcome the team getting tested against a proper defense.

      • ‘rhythm’ is the right choice of word for warriors 3 pt struggles. They added hesitation into their shooting even while shooting wide open 3s. Memphis is surely a top notch defense team and probably contesting more 3s than other teams. Warriors only need to make wide open 3s like they did in regular season. Warriors don’t need to score 110 pts like they would have had against most teams, so even few open 3 pointers they make will tilt the balance of the game in warriors favor. Kerr is not going to do it but would like to see Holiday get some minutes over Iguodala who is struggling and no sign of returning to form, atleast for this series. Other intriguing prospect would be McAdoo to get backup PF minutes who can get boards and bring energy. Both those players with no guaranteed contracts will play like there is no tomorrow for them in NBA.

        • mcadoo was left dormant during plenty of less meaningful contests, so they don’t consider him reliable. missed assignments from interior players are usually devastating. we’ll learn how much and how well ezeli has been prepared to defend z.randolph, if bogut and green continue to have difficulties or get early fouls.

    • Harry, did you happen to hear the Steinmetz Sunday morning radio show? He went on about how shots were out of rhythm, even the wide open ones, due to the Griz defense, and how shots in the playoffs, open or not, are fundamentally different than the regular season, due to pressure of just being in the playoffs. I agree about the rhythm too, but not about the mental pressure. For example, Conley stepped right in and buried shots. Or is the pressure generated on Curry from the MVP award and on the Warriors as favorites? I really don’t buy that aspect of pressure.

  11. Steve Kerr on David Lee:

    “David’s a great guy,” Kerr said. “He’s great player. If I put him out there for 30 minutes a night, I have no doubt he’d average 18 points and 10 boards. He’d do his thing because he’s talented and skilled. But it’s all about how the puzzle fits together. And right now, he’s just been the odd man out. And it’s incredibly frustrating for him, as it should be. He’s a human being.”

    • That was 2 months old article and before Lee got hurt.

    • It’s sad that Kerr has never figured out Lee’s worth.

      Joerger has figured out the Big Man Equation, and his team has won the last two.

      I love Dray, think he’s totally awesome, but while he plays bigger than his size, he’s not big. And his team is facing the best big tandem in the world.

      If the Ws don’t win this series, it’s on Kerr. The game hasn’t changed so much that a little guy can stand in for an AllStar big against other AllStar bigs.

      I can only hope that Kerr gets the lightbulb revelation that, hey, Lee has always been a killer against Memphis.

      Dray can be a 3 sometimes, and he’d be a totally awesome 3. If Barnes is the best Warrior on the floor, this team is out of the playoffs.

  12. I fully recognize the pivotal nature of tonight’s game, but will unfortunately be unable to recap.

    For the record, I expect the Warriors to get a very good whistle, and to win.

  13. Had to say something…