Golden State Warriors: 67-15
Memphis Grizzlies: 55-27
Golden State Warriors: none
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley (face)
OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)
Golden State Warriors: Offense 109.7 (4th in NBA), Defense 98.2 (1st in NBA)
Memphis Grizzlies: Offense 103.1 (13th in NBA), Defense 99.9 (4th in NBA)
THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES
1) How healthy is Mike Conley?
The Grizzlies point guard, who’s expected to miss at least Game 1, is very good and very important to Memphis.
He penetrates well, gets the defense moving and then makes the right pass. He’s also a good 3-point shooter on a team lacking for those. Best of all, he executes well in a slow pace that probably favors the defense.
Plus, he’s a superb defender who makes life easier for the bigs behind him. (Though it’s possible nobody can defend Stephen Curry, anyway).
Even while dismantling the Trail Blazers in five games, Memphis outscored them by just two points in 161 minutes without Conley (and 32 in 79 minutes with him).
Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes are underrated backups, and both had their moments against the Trail Blazers. But besting low expectations is not nearly enough against Golden State.
The Grizzlies need their near-All-Star point guard.
2) Can the Grizzlies post-up – without getting burned on the other end?
The Grizzlies led the NBA in points scored on post-ups by featuring Zach Randolph (fourth in post-up points per game) and Marc Gasol (sixth).
But the Warriors have two of the league’s better post defenders in Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut.
It should be a fun matchup between those pairings when Memphis has the ball.
However, merely winning the battle is not nearly enough for the Grizzlies. They also need to keep up with Bogut and Gasol on the other end.
Few players capable of handling Randolph and Gasol in the post also possess such offensive versatility. Green hits open 3-pointers well enough that his defender should get pulled outside, and Bogut passes well from the high post. They help the Warriors create a ton of space, and Memphis’ bigs – looking at you, Randolph – will have to show plenty of agility to keep up.
3) Can the Warriors play slowly (and will we even find out)?
Golden State played at the NBA’s second-fastest pace this season. Memphis, on the other hand, played at the second-slowest pace among playoff teams.
The Grizzlies will probably try to slow the tempo, but even if they do, the Warriors should be fine.
Golden State has won all its games played at or below Memphis season-long pace mark, per Nylon Calculus possession stats. But that’s just four games, a very small sample – which is telling.
The Warriors excel at setting the tone. The slowest pace among playoff teams this season? The Pelicans, whom Golden State swept, though that series was the slowest of the first round.
The Grizzlies might be better at deliberately slowing the pace than New Orleans, but probably not good enough – and even if they are, it probably won’t matter.
The Warriors are better, healthier and more rested. They can match Memphis preferred style and then unleash their own machinations.
If Conley were healthy, I’d give the Grizzlies another game. Alas:
Warriors in 4.