20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Grizzlies Rout Warriors, Send Series Back to Golden State for Game Six

The Golden State Warriors went to Memphis on Wednesday night expecting a coronation, but instead of being crowned they got clowned. The Grizzlies scored the first five points of the game in less than a minute, never trailed, led by as many as 55 points, and defeated the Warriors 134-95 in a game that was not as close as the final score may suggest; this was a "name the number" game: the Grizzlies could have won by 40, 50, or 60 points if they had so desired. Ja Morant missed his second straight game due to a bone bruise in his knee that will reportedly keep him out of action for the rest of the playoffs, and the Grizzlies again demonstrated--as they did throughout the regular season--that they are much more than a one man team. No Memphis player played more than 25 minutes, but seven scored in double figures, led by three players who had 21 points each (Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Tyus Jones). Steven Adams had a game-high 13 rebounds as the Grizzlies annihilated the Warriors 55-37 on the boards. Adams missed four straight playoff games due to a combination of COVID-19 and also the coaching staff deciding to play small, but he had 15 rebounds in 27 minutes as the Grizzlies led for most of game four before blowing it at the end, and he was similarly dominant in the paint in game five.

Shooting may not travel, but defense and rebounding do travel. The Grizzlies are big, they are physical, and they play excellent defense. They have matchup advantages against Golden State, and they have a chance to win this series even without Morant.

Perhaps that last sentence sounds bizarre or even crazy because of Golden State's "Death Lineup" and "championship DNA," so keep in mind that the nucleus of this team--with all of their vaunted "championship DNA"--blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals. The popular perceptions of this series do not match up with reality. The "Death" in the Warriors' "Death Lineup" was mostly provided by two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who also provided two thirds of the Warriors' three championships; the only other title came at the expense of a Cleveland team missing two of their three All-Stars, the same Cleveland team that--when healthy--beat the Warriors in the 2016 Finals. 

Isn't a big part of "championship DNA" winning a series as quickly as possible to conserve energy and avoid injuries? Either the Warriors' "championship DNA" is missing a few strands, or these teams are more evenly matched than the "experts" suspect. 

Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 19 points on 7-12 field goal shooting, but he also had a staggering -45 plus/minus number. Jonathan Kuminga added 17 points. Two-time regular season MVP Stephen Curry scored 14 points, shot 4-10 from the field, did not score in the second half, and posted a tidy -37 plus/minus number. Draymond Green produced a "triple single" (five points, seven rebounds, five assists), and a -32 plus/minus number. Jordan Poole scored three points on 1-6 field goal shooting. The "Splash Brothers" trio of Curry, Thompson and Poole barely created a ripple.

The Warriors will play better in game six at home--they could hardly play worse--but any notion that this will be easy is false. The Grizzlies came within a missed layup at the buzzer of winning game one, and they outplayed the Warriors for the vast majority of game four; the 3-2 margin in Golden State's favor could easily be 3-2 in Memphis' favor, and the Grizzlies are unlikely to show up for game six just happy to be there: the Grizzlies will play hard, and if just a little bit of their shooting travels with them they have a legitimate opportunity to bring this series back to Memphis for game seven, which could provide a great test of what exactly is in Golden State's "championship DNA" when Durant is not around to save the day.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 1:34 AM



At Thursday, May 12, 2022 11:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GS is obviously not the team they used to from 2015-2018. But, I don't see a team in the league this year that is that great, so they definitely have a chance. PHO probably is best but they're struggling against DAL who doesn't have much besides Doncic. Granted, DAL is playing well with who they have and exposed Utah going up 2-1 before Doncic returned, but they're hardly a contender.

We're seeing how much Morant is kinda overrated. While he's overall putting up big numbers vs GS(not MIN), MEM has been better without him this season. MEM was 20-2 at one point during the regular season when Morant sat. That's not a small sample size and on pace for 74 wins. They finished 20-4 in games they tried to win without Morant, which is still on pace for 68 wins. I've never seen a team lose their star player and improve this much. But not just improving, playing at an elite level. This doesn't mean MEM is better without Morant necessarily, but it's hard to argue for him making as much of an impact as many claim.

Morant was well subpar vs MIN(who's nothing more than a pretender), while MEM squeaked out that series. MEM was leading game 4 vs GS in the final minute before losing, and now destroyed GS in game 5. It seems weird, but MEM is definitely performing better without Morant. Maybe they're forced to play more as a 'team,' who knows. GS should still win the series, probably in game 6.

At Thursday, May 12, 2022 5:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Phoenix is a well-balanced team, but size bothers them, and Paul has a career-long pattern of wearing down.

Milwaukee is the best team, particularly if Middleton returns soon.

I disagree that Morant is overrated. He scores at high volume and with good efficiency, he is a very good passer, and he is an excellent rebounder for a guard.

Memphis finished the season 20-5 without him, and 36-21 with him. Over 82 games, that is the difference between being a 66 win team and a 52 win team, but 25 games is a small sample size and this also fails to take into account--among other things--strength of opposition, back to back games, who else played/did not play.

GS "should win" at home in game six, but we'll see. Memphis has matchup advantages and a style of play that can travel well. I picked Memphis in seven before the series.

At Thursday, May 12, 2022 5:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous here.

Memphis is obviously better with Morant in general but they may be better against Golden State specifically without him. The Warriors were smart about putting him into rotation to create openings as Memphis' weakest defender and those opportunities are gone now. Additionally though he's been making his threes in this series Golden State was content to help off of him and dare him to shoot which seemingly made Memphis reticent to play bigger lineups that would further shrink the floor. Since he's gone down their best lineups have been those with both Adams and Jackson but I am not sure those two would play much together if he were healthy given how reluctant Memphis seemed to be of using Adams in the one game where both he and Ja were healthy. Regardless Jackson is much more effective and less foul-prone at the 4 than the 5 and he saw little time at the 4 in the first three games of the series.

The Warriors may want to consider more pick and roll attacks to punish Adams against Curry or Poole as a counter-punch to try and get him off the floor. It will be difficult for Golden State to win the rebounding battle with him out there and that has been a key for them this series.

Additionally it is likely that most or all of Golden State's defensive scouting, planning, and practice defensively was predicated on the Ja-based offense so it is possible they were caught off-guard somewhat by the non-Ja version. We have seen this phenomenon periodically over the years, most famously in the 80 Finals without Kareem. It usually only takes a game or two for the other team to adjust but we will see if the Warriors can.

Basketball is a game of matchups and it seems like the non-Ja version of the Grizzlies may actually be a tougher matchup for Golden State than the Ja version despite his incandescent scoring prowess. They have certainly played their two best defensive games of the series without him as well as their best offensive game.

At Thursday, May 12, 2022 6:34:00 PM, Anonymous Cyber said...

Someone over at Twitter made a thread going over Memphis record without Ja and it weeks it's a combination of schedule and facing a very high proportion of injured rosters in that span. I would also argue that Tyus Jones is a solid backup capable of starting and he seems to be a good fit with the rest of the roster as a game manager type. Ultimately Ja is their best player and closer and his presence was needed in game 2 and definitely missed in game 4

Thread in question: https://twitter.com/BeansGoated/status/1524815347450163211?t=vkoIh-x50NKmXQWBHqJAaA&s=19

At Thursday, May 12, 2022 8:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not convinced that Memphis is better off without Morant in this matchup, but I agree with your points about matchups in general being important, and about a team sometimes needing time to adjust the game plan when the other team's star is out.

At Thursday, May 12, 2022 8:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


That thread is a good summary providing context about the 20-5 stat that so many people throw around casually. I agree with you that Morant is the Grizzlies' best player, and they missed him at the end of game four.


Post a Comment

<< Home