First Team All Defense

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All day the speculation swirled. Would the man in the mask appear in time for tip off? Secrecy shrouded closed practices. Tony Allen was tight lipped, waving off questions and trouble. Marc Gasol made jokes. The man in question went from doubtful to questionable. ESPN threw shade in backhanded compliments. Shaq should be on Shaqtin a Fool.  All Heart in Hoop City predicted the return of Conley the day he had surgery. Predicted he would be back early in the Golden State round. Last night, in game 2 at the Oracle, the masked man returned. You know his name.

Captain Clutch morphed into Iron Mike, and threw his knock-out punches. Opening the first quarter Conley threw down 9. No fear. No hesitation. The man that had surgery that placed 2 titanium plates in his face 8 days before returned with a vengeance. The night was supposed to belong to the MVP. The trophy ceremony preceded the game. It just went to the wrong man. Warriors play through injuries, Warriors sacrifice. Mike Conley will undoubtedly receive recognition and a hero’s welcome Saturday in his house. The Grindhouse.

Zach Randolph combined with Conley for the first 20 points. The lackluster of game 1 quickly dissipated. Energy was distributed even through television waves. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it. It was palpable. In the paint, on the swing, the General commanded his arsenal. They responded in kind. The physicality escalated on both ends of the floor. Tony Allen took up residence in Klay Thompson’s head. All who wander are not lost.

When Courtney Lee hits 2 or more from behind the arc, the Grizzlies have won 25 of 28. Last night Lee hit the magic number going 2-4 from the perimeter. This post season has been the best of Lee’s career. He is a man on fire. Lee finished with 15 points, went 3-3 from the free, added 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. It’s been more than offense input for Lee, he’s staked his claim at the arc defensively.

First. Team. All Defense. The Grindfather has spoken. Focused. Controlled. Execution. Tony Allen deflated the magic of the Splash. Boo him if you must, but tip your hat in respect you will. Tony Allen should be mic’ed up all the time. I would marathon watch a Tony Allen reality show in a shot clock. If you need inspiration on any given day go on over to Twitter and follow Tony Allen. You’ll thank me. Allen went 4-7 for 9 points, including a beautiful slam following a golden steal. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and pick pocketed 4 steals. Also of note, Tony Allen believes he can fly, having a Space Jam moment that resulted in an offensive goal tend. Those hops though! First. Team. All Defense.

The hit. Heart stopping. Mike Conley sealed the ball on the floor, calling for a time out. The whistle blasted. Play should’ve stopped, but one Warrior played through the whistle. In an attempt to recover the ball Draymond Green snaked his left hand at the ball, and planted his right firmly on Mike Conley’s mask. As Conley rolled on the floor, Green was immediately confronted by Zach Randolph. Beast mode activated. You could see the turmoil and conflict in Conley’s demeanor. Should I stay or should I go? Surrounded by his fellow soldiers, medical staff, coaches, Mike Conley brushed the dirt off his shoulders. Conley finished with 22 points on 8-12, and 3-6 from the perimeter. One of those 3’s poignantly hit with 3?minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.

First lieutenant Zach Randolph was unwavering in his determination and dedication. Randolph set screens, and dominated the paint. Randolph put up 20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. He went to battle and defended his general.

Marc Gasol struggled offensively a bit with the mismatch in the smaller Draymond Green. Gasol contributed 15, going 5-10 from the field, and 5-6 from the charity stripe. Gasol, or GaSoul as TNT commentators refer to him, also pulled down 6 rebounds, added 3 assists, and 2 steals. Opponents may hold him for a minute, but never fold him. It’s best to walk away, or know when to run. Big Spain has been aggressive and direct.

Golden State entered the contest with a 67-15 record. Winning at home match-ups 39-2, on a 21 game winning streak. Their regular season streak was halted at the Grindhouse in December, and again on their home turf last night.  Steph Curry, master of the three, MVP, went 7-9 from the field, and 2-11 from beyond the arc. Those numbers are generally reserved for half a quarter. Klay Thompson finished with 13, 6-15 from the field, and 1-6 from the perimeter. Tony Allen did Tony Allen things to Klay Thompson. The wrath of the Grindfather cannot be denied.

Golden State turned the ball over 20 times, resulting in 22 Memphis points. Memphis turned the ball over 13 times. For a team that fired on all cylinders most of the night, there was room for improvement. Marc Gasol needs to make more of the mismatch of size in Draymond Green. Being more aggressive at the glass, both taking it to the cup, and retrieving it. Jeff Green has thus far had a disappointing play-off run. There have been small bursts, but nothing of note. He must use his athleticism to maneuver through the lane, and be decisive. Stop hanging at the top of the arc waiting, and position himself at the baseline. His sweet spot is the left baseline off the swing. With the second unit, the paint is more open, and the traffic less jammed. Green light all the way.

What did work was collaborative efforts defensively. Staying on your man mafia style. When I move, you move, just like that. Mike Conley did an excellent job controlling the pace. Slower tempo, grit n grind edition.

We will see you Saturday at the Forum, where the refs will show up on time, and names are pronounced correctly. We are All Heart in Hoop City.

 

Jennifer Conroy

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