Klay Thompson dribbled on the perimeter, Tony Allen pestering him at every turn. Allen forced Thompson to lose control of the ball. Thompson recovered it and squared up to attack Allen again.
This time, Allen poked the ball away and stole it.
The Warriors – facing a stiffer-test than-expected test – kept hitting their head against the wall as they tried in vein to adjust during the Grizzlies 99-89 Game 3 win Saturday.
“We just tried to come impose our will,” said Zach Randolph, who did just that en route to 22 points and eight rebounds.
Golden State will attempt to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season in Monday’s Game 4, but that won’t be easy. Memphis is now 4-0 at home in the playoffs
Like in Game 2, the Grizzlies made Golden State uncomfortable through sheer physical force. The Warriors’ last two outputs of 90 and 89 points are their third-fewest and tied for second-fewest of the season.
Allen (four steals) keyed Memphis’ defense, and until struggling late, Marc Gasol (21 points and 15 rebounds) excelled offensively.
As Gasol’s production dipped in the fourth quarter, the Warriors went on a 20-5 run to cut a 19-point deficit to four. How did the Grizzlies, who surely know Golden State made a 20-point comeback to beat New Orleans in the first round, respond? Courtney Lee hit a big 3-pointer to help Memphis pull away.
The Warriors’ 67 regular-season wins just don’t intimidate the Grizzlies.
Golden State, on the other hand, looks a little shook.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 23 points, but he needed 21 shots. Thompson missed 3-of-4 free throws. Draymond Green shot 1-of-8, including 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“We just didn’t make open shots, and that was a good sign,” Golden State coach coach Steve Kerr said. “But I thought we got a little flustered because the shots weren’t going in.”
That doesn’t give the Grizzlies enough credit.
Memphis took its already-good defense up a notch. It’s not coincidental the Warriors are rushing their open shots. They look spooked by the Grizzlies’ pressure.
Can that change in two days? Definitely. The Warriors were too good this season to count them out, even down 2-1. But Memphis demands better from the top seed if it’s going to advance.
“This is kind of our moment of truth,” Kerr said.