Draymond Green glued himself to Mike Conley’s hip as the Grizzlies point guard drove the lane, and Andrew Bogut stepped over to block Conley’s shot. Stephen Curry picked up the ball, attacked the basket 1-on-2 and drew a foul.
A Memphis fan reached for a high five, and Curry happily obliged.
After a two-game skid invited far too much criticism, the Warriors unapologetically remained themselves – staunch defensively, aggressive offensively and confident everywhere – in a 101-84 Game 4 win Monday in Memphis.
“We had a good mindset as a group coming into this game that, if we play like ourselves, we’ll be able to change the tide of the series,” said Curry, who – for the first time since winning the award – played like an MVP with 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Curry might have won over only a fan or two, but his Warriors at least quieted what had been a rocking Memphis crowd. Headed back to Golden State with the series tied 2-2 for Game 5 Wednesday, the Warriors aren’t done with the Grind House just yet.
But at least they showed they can handle the pressure.
In the previous couple games, Golden State hoisted many 3-pointers (result: misses), worked quickly before the defense set (result: rushed shots) and made risky passes (result: turnovers).
Tonight, Golden State hoisted many 3-pointers (result: efficient points and misses), worked quickly before the defense set (result: open shots and rushed shots) and made risky passes (result: easy looks and turnovers).
Against this strong Memphis defense, mixed results are more than fine. Golden State just couldn’t afford to let the Grizzlies mentally impact possessions that weren’t closely guarded, which seemed to happen far too often in Games 2 and 3.
On the other end, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a crafty adjustment.
The Warriors stuck Bogut on Tony Allen, leaving their center to patrol the paint and daring Allen to shoot. Allen (2-of-9, including 0-of-3 on 3s) complied, and Harrison Barnes did well enough on Zach Randolph (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds, five offensive) to negate that potential Memphis advantage.
The Grizzlies, who led led for just 29 seconds, couldn’t find an edge elsewhere. Marc Gasol (19 points on 19 shots, 10 rebounds and six assists) labored, and Mike Conley (4-of-15) was too often out of control.
On the other hand, Green (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and seven turnovers) channeled his energetic aggressiveness a little more productively than he had.
Golden State had plenty of miscues, including 21 turnovers, but defended well enough to win whether or not its shots were falling. The Warriors are no one-trick pony, and they’re not soft.
Most importantly: They avoided their first three-game losing streak since since November 2013, setting up a de facto best-of-three series to reach the Western Conference finals.
“I want them to be satisfied with the effort, and I want them to be hungry to improve,” Kerr said. “And I want them to understand nothing’s happened yet.”