Basketball

Takeaways From Round 2: Warriors – Grizzlies

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After a long, hard-fought six games, Golden State finally has Memphis out of its way once and for all. Game six was yet another dog fight between these two – Golden State held just a one-point lead heading into the final quarter on Friday night.

Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney stole the show on Friday night, but Stephen Curry came through down the stretch, bolstering the Warriors to a 110-96 win.

The final score doesn’t really accurately depict game six; it really was a competitive slugfest, but the story of the game was Looney dominating the boards and the Warriors’ three-point attack. Looney finished with 22 rebounds and the Warriors buried 20 threes, 14 of which were from Curry and Thompson.

Memphis matched the Warriors’ energy and sunk 15 threes through the bottom of the net but it just wasn’t quite enough. And on a night when Memphis won the turnover battle by 11, the Warriors still managed to outshoot Memphis by 8 FGA and 17 3PA – credit Looney for ripping down 11 offensive rebounds and Andrew Wiggins’ coming up with 6.

Golden State proved they can lose the turnover battle by a wide margin and still have success – Golden State averaged 17.8 turnovers for the series compared to just 10.8 for Memphis. Head coach Steve Kerr knows the Warriors have to try and cut back their turnovers but it’s also just a part of who they are, says Kerr, “We are going to be a relatively high turnover team… As long as it’s measured and tempered, I think we’re fine. We’ve won championships being a high turnover team, but it can’t be obscene.”

Game Six Klay is a Menace

The legend of “Game 6 Klay” continued on Friday night in the Western Conference Semifinals. And if you’re not familiar, it absolutely is a thing. The following are some of Thompson’s most notable game six performances over the course of his career:

  1. May 28, 2016: Down 3-2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Thompson exploded for 41 points in a 7-point come from behind win in OKC, to keep Dub Nation’s then championship hopes alive. Thompson had 11 3PM on the night, including five in the fourth quarter.
  2. May 2016, 2018: With the Warriors’ backs against the wall down 3-2 yet again in the Western Conference Finals, Thompson put together a 35-point performance, going 9-14 from downtown in a 115-86 blowout win.
  3. June 13, 2019: Down 3-2, this one was in a losing effort in an NBA Finals elimination game but it was still a noteworthy performance for multiple reasons, on the biggest stage, nonetheless. In less than three quarters of action, Thompson had 30 points on 8-12 shooting before he infamously tore his ACL with 2:22 left in the 3rd quarter as the Warriors held an 83-80 lead at the time.
  4. May 13, 2022: This time up 3-2, a struggling Warriors offense needed Game 6 Klay to show up in the worst way possible, and boy, did he come through. Dropping 30 points on 8-14 from long distance, this was a vintage Thompson performance.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this season, it’s to not bet against Klay Thompson. And sure as heck don’t bet against him in a game six. The Warriors truly needed every one of 30 points on Friday night and as usual, Thompson delivered.

Memphis Isn’t Going Anywhere

Golden State was lackluster at times during this series – there’s just no way around that, but that shouldn’t just get chalked up to self-inflicted wounds. Memphis, without its only all-star in Ja Morant, outworked Golden State for quite a bit of that series. While that’s kind of just what NBA fans are used to seeing out of Memphis’ playoff teams over the last decade, it’s pretty incredible the way that they compete, and often grind out wins without their franchise player.

Desmond Bane is a near-perfect complement in the backcourt next to Morant. With Bane’s prolific shooting and hard-nosed defense, these two will likely be running the backcourt in Memphis for years to come.

Bane had been dealing with a back issue that lingered throughout the series. He wasn’t always on the injury report, but he looked like a shell of himself through the first four games of this series and bounced back with a stellar 21-point performance in game five and a 25-point performance in game six.

Jaren Jackson Jr’s efforts also can’t go unnoticed. It almost feels like he’s an afterthought with this Grizzlies team sometimes, but he did what he could on both ends of the floor to help keep Memphis in the series.

With his team’s back against the wall, Jackson showed up with his best performance of the series in game 5, dropping 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks while knocking down four of his six three-point attempts. Although he didn’t deliver offensively in Friday night’s elimination contest, for the most part when Memphis needed him most this season, Jackson stepped up.

One game doesn’t define a team but this series summed up the Grizzlies’ season pretty well. No matter what’s thrown at Taylor Jenkins’ Memphis squad, they’re going to show up with who they have available and put up a fight regardless of the opponent. And that’s really all you can ask for from your team.

Memphis’ run ended much shorter than they hoped, but the Grizzlies aren’t going anywhere. They’re still young and have a lot to prove but they have nothing to hang their heads about from this season. They should have a lot of years left with their core. They’re going to need to improve going forward just like everyone else, but who wouldn’t want to join this Grizzlies team?

It Takes a Village

Golden State won this series because each and every guy in their rotation found ways to contribute throughout the series.

Wiggins made numerous impact plays throughout the series and helped their struggling offense get over the hump in game 6 – scoring 18 points on 3-5 from distance, to go along with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. Looney dominated the glass in game six so much that he had Thompson referring to him as Kevon “Looajuwon” after the game.

Draymond Green came through with a near triple-double after being heavily criticized in game 5. Curry and Thompson may have taken a combined 49 shots, but that’s their job, and they delivered with 59 combined points. Otto Porter Jr. was playing an important role as a 3 and D player before going down with an injury in game 5 that would prevent him from returning to the series.

I mean hell, even associate head coach Mike Brown had to step in as the head coach and helped contribute with Kerr’s absence in games six and seven.

Green, alongside the Warriors backcourt, tend to get a majority of the credit in Golden State, but what Looney and Wiggins and Porter Jr and the rest of the Dubs rotation contribute is vital to their success too.

With Dallas up next, Golden State is truly going to need every single guy to be ready to play. Dallas just took the absolute life out of Phoenix in game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals and they’re going to look to do the same against Golden State.

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