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Saturday, May 22, 2021

Grizzlies Eliminate Warriors in Final Game of Play-In Tournament

Form held in the NBA's Play-In Tournament until the final overtime moments of the final game, when the young ninth place Memphis Grizzlies took out the eighth place Golden State Warriors on Golden State's home court to earn the Western Conference's eighth playoff seed. Ja Morant led Memphis with 35 points, including two big baskets to clinch the 117-112 overtime victory, and he also had six assists, six rebounds, and four steals. Stephen Curry scored a game-high 39 points on 13-28 field goal shooting, but he also had a game-high seven turnovers as the Warriors coughed up the ball 21 times.

The Warriors' sloppy ballhandling hurt them at the start of the game. Golden State committed three turnovers in the first four minutes, and Memphis took an 18-6 lead while shooting 7-7 from the field. There is a natural tendency to focus on what happens at the end of a game, but that careless beginning meant that Golden State spent most of the game fighting an uphill battle.

The Warriors rallied to take a 27-26 lead before the end of the first quarter, but the Grizzlies were up 30-29 heading into the second quarter. When Golden State called a timeout at the 3:17 mark of the second quarter, the Grizzlies had extended their advantage to 57-42. Each of the 10 Grizzlies who had entered the game had scored as Memphis led 62-49 at halftime. Morant had 12 points, three rebounds, and three assists to pace the balanced attack. Stephen Curry scored 17 first half points, but he shot just 5-14 from the field. Memphis pushed the lead to 67-53 in the third quarter, but only clung to a 78-73 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Memphis seemed to be on the verge of securing victory before Golden State scored nine straight points to tie the score at 97 on two Curry free throws with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kyle Anderson hit two free throws to put Memphis up 99-97 with 55 seconds left, but then Andrew Wiggins' layup tied the score at 99 at the 33 second mark. The Grizzlies committed a 24 second violation after a disjointed possession to give the Warriors a chance to win, but Draymond Green missed a layup as time expired in regulation.

The teams traded baskets in an exciting overtime period, but Memphis landed the final blows: a three pointer by Xavier Tillman, followed by a pair of Morant jumpers to make the score 114-109 with 4.5 seconds remaining. Jordan Poole hit a three pointer with 2.2 seconds left to trim the margin to two, but then Desmond Bane closed out the scoring with a three point play.

Curry has already been announced as an MVP finalist, meaning that he finished no lower than third in the voting. Imagine for a moment if, say, Kobe Bryant or Russell Westbrook had failed to win an elimination game at home against a lower seeded team, and thus missed the playoffs. What would the headline be? What would the narrative be? During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Kobe Bryant was more productive and more dominant offensively than Curry was this season, and Bryant made the All-Defensive First Team during both of those campaigns. In 2006, Bryant's Lakers--with no other All-Stars--pushed the Phoenix Suns (led by MVP Steve Nash plus a host of All-Star caliber players) to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Nevertheless, the media narrative was that Bryant could not win the MVP because his team did not win enough games. So, how can Curry have a top three finish in the MVP voting while playing for a team that finished eighth only to then "play out" of the playoffs? Nikola Jokic deserves to win the MVP, but part of me wants to see Curry win as lasting testament in the record book to the stupidity and hypocrisy of the MVP voters.

It was hard to miss the snide remarks about "playoff Westbrook" after his Wizards lost the first Play-In game versus Boston (a team that has appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals three of the past four years)--but Westbrook led his team to a blowout win against Indiana to clinch a playoff berth. "Playoff Westbrook" is a reality this season, while "Playoff Curry" is just wishful thinking this season. Where are the basketball geniuses who declared that the Warriors' offense functions better without Kevin Durant? 

Curry put up impressive numbers versus the Grizzlies after his slow start, but the bottom line is that he is the "people's choice" for MVP and he could not deliver a win at home in an elimination game against a young team with no playoff experience. If Bryant or Westbrook had produced a similar result then they would be criticized for failing, even if Bryant scored 50 points or if Westbrook put up 20-20-20. It is fascinating how winning matters so much except for when the narrative is that winning does not matter.

Just to be crystal clear, I think that Curry is a great player--all I am saying is that the MVP voters repeatedly display stupidity and hypocrisy when they twist logic into knots to explain their inconsistent criteria. None of this is Curry's fault; he plays hard, and he is very productive--he was just not more valuable this season than Nikola Jokic or Giannis Antetokounmpo, who should have finished 1-2 in the balloting. If winning matters, if elevating a depleted roster to the playoffs matters, then Curry was demonstrably not as valuable this season as Westbrook. COVID-19 and injuries decimated the Wizards, but thanks to Westbrook averaging a triple double for the season--for a record fourth time in the past five seasons--the Wizards recovered to earn a playoff berth. Westbrook's 2020-21 campaign may be the most underrated great season in NBA history. Curry's 2020-21 campaign was productive and worthy of All-NBA Team recognition, but if he wins the MVP it may be the most overrated great season in NBA history.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:50 AM



At Saturday, May 22, 2021 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Kobe critcism was about his personality and preceievdd arrogance

Which Was Proven wrong kobe helped alot of people on and off the court

I dont see any similarities with him and westbrook

He alot better and more efficient also his critcism of was of him personal so they took it out on him basketball wise

Westbrook critcism is based on basketball people like him personally so they dont compare

Westbrook won the mvp as a 6 seed wit 45 wins

Kobe came in 3rd with 45 wins and his team was a 7 seed. He clearly should of won mvp going away he had the worst starting lineup ever to make playoffs.

Westbrook critcism not near kobe

Curry i told u at beginning of season was overrated by media members cause they like him personally

He a top 5 to 10 player in nba

But he not a top 20 player all time

He had 2 hof and a all star when he won 2 of the 3 titles

Media people put him on magic isiah big o level when he not close

I taks stockton kidd payton and a few others over him as well

He a great shooter good playmaker amd shot maker

But he cant carry a team anywhere unless he plays with a bunch of hofamers

I had him 3rd in mvp

Behind jokic and embid

He great but overatted if u think he top 15 all time

At Saturday, May 22, 2021 1:44:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

I've been waiting for someone to say it! The coverage Curry gets almost makes one dislike him. It's not even his fault. I look online and see people on TV calling Curry a top 10 player of all-time. It's mind boggling. How many other players would get criticized to hell for scoring 39 in a losing effort with twice as many turnovers as assists, and missing the playoffs as a Top 3 MVP candidate with another all-star caliber player in Draymond Green on their team. Not to mention that Wiggins had probably his best all-around year yet averaging 18ppg and being in the discussion to make an all-defensive team. Certain players seem to escape criticism from the media and it's so frustrating.

At Sunday, May 23, 2021 10:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The criticism of Kobe came from a lot of different perspectives, and much of it made no sense and had no factual basis.

I have never said that Westbrook is as good as Kobe. I have been very clear that I rank Westbrook as a Top 50 player all-time, not a Pantheon-level player. The similarity is that both players became the best guard in the NBA while also receiving a lot of unwarranted criticism regarding how they play.

At Sunday, May 23, 2021 10:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Curry has reached that Steve Nash level in terms of being a great player and seemingly nice person who has become overrated to the point that you almost feel like rooting against him, even though it is not his fault that he is overrated. Steve Nash was a more durable Mark Price playing in an era when the rules favor offense, and the media was looking for excuse to not give the MVP award to Kobe until they determined that he had "redeemed" himself in their eyes. The Price comparison is not an insult; Price was an All-NBA First Team caliber guard, but he never sniffed an MVP, and Nash played at the same level but was rewarded with two MVPs.

Curry is better than Nash or Price, but Curry should not have won two MVPs, and if he wins the MVP this season they might as well stop giving out the award. Jokic and Antetokounmpo performed at a significantly higher all-around level than any other players this season, and I would be OK with either one winning the MVP (I would vote for Jokic).

At Sunday, May 23, 2021 1:32:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...


I've always agreed with your Steve Nash/Mark Price comparisons. Was Nash better? Hard to say because of the era, but sure why not. I don't think the gap is large either way. Honestly, the discussions around Nash that annoyed me the most (and still do) was not the MVP, but the fact that so many considered Nash to be superior to Kidd. Anyone who watched basketball in the late 90s and mid 2000s and walked away believing Nash to be better is fooling themselves. That's my nice way of saying it.

I hate to say it, but I have found myself rooting against Curry before just to spite the media. I actually like watching him play and find him pretty likable overall. It just bugs me that certain players get talked about negatively for celebrating and taunting after great plays, but Curry never gets criticized for the shimmy's, antics during all-star games, and very casual demeanor during pressure moments and losses.

Curry is considered to be "clutch", but in reality he's a front runner and often makes very poor decisions in close games. Curry is considered to be a great point guard and ball distributor, but has not been the primary playmaker on his team since they've become championship caliber. It's not uncommon for the opposing team to seek him out defensively and expose mismatches (Memphis did it often on Friday for example). How many times has Klay Thompson saved the Warriors when Curry was playing poorly?

Like you, I don't like coming off as saying Curry is super overrated and not worthy of being considered a top 10 player and all-time great. He's without question a top 50 player. Heck you can even say top 30. It just bothers me so much that Curry's strengths are exaggerated and overrated to the moon, but his faults aren't remotely close to being highlighted like other players.


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