Just Another Day at the Office: My Thoughts on the Grizzlies vs. the Warriors Series

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Today the Memphis Grizzlies will take the court in ORACLE Arena in Oakland, CA and face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Popular opinion would have you to believe that the Grizzlies don’t stand a chance against the Warriors. Funny thing about the Grizzlies that folks still hadn’t quite figured out yet: they go against the grain. Saying that they can’t or won’t do something simply adds to a burning internal fire that fuels their desire to win.

These two teams are different. The Warriors are a team of sharp shooters spacing the floor at every opportunity. The Grizzlies are more of a half court, old school basketball team. The Warriors led by the likely MVP winner for this season, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson are good; there’s no disputing that. Here’s a news flash for some and a reminder for others though…so are the Grizzlies. Call me biased, say I’m in my feelings, call me crazy even, but you can’t convince me that the Grizzlies can’t compete against the Warriors.


Unless you live in a world unconcerned about basketball, you’re quite aware that the Grizzlies starting point guard, Mike Conley, suffered a facial injury near his left eye in game 3 against the Portland Trailblazers when he took an elbow from CJ McCollum. Conley, affectionately called Cap’n Clutch and Clutch Conley at times, is undoubtedly an integral part of the Grizzlies’ team. He is the Floor General. He is the tie that binds. He’s the play maker. He’s the facilitator. He’s the leader. Offensively, they need him. Defensively, they need him. His status right now though is still uncertain.
Conley did travel with the team to Oakland; that’s a positive.

Practice was closed to the media, and though Coach Dave Joerger has stated that Conley is doubtful for game 1, no one would confirm or deny whether or not he practiced with the team when they arrived in Oakland. The coyness of it all leads me to believe that he did, but that he needs a little more time.

Allow me to get in my feelings for a moment…Conley is my favorite player. I believe the success of this team in this series is greater with him on the court. I also, however, wouldn’t want to see him injured any more than he is. I’m concerned about him as a person more than a player right now. However, I realize Conley is a fighter. He dominated (and I don’t use that word lightly) All Star point guard Damian Lillard during the Portland series. The irony of it all is that he did so with after missing the last 4 games of the regular season with an injured ankle that required him to wear a shoe a size larger than his normal size. So, what I know for sure is, if he doesn’t have swelling, can see, and has a mask that fits, he’s hitting that court. My personal preference is that he doesn’t until they return home to Memphis for Game 3 though. The Grizzlies do need Conley, but I don’t think they’re doomed without him.

“This ain’t our first rodeo.” (Zach Randolph)

In an interview with the media on Friday, Zach Randolph said it best when he said, “this ain’t our first rodeo.” The Grizzlies have gone to the playoffs for the past 5 seasons. Two runs have seen them get 3 out of 7 wins in the 1st round (Clippers in 2012; Thunder in 2014). One run saw them get 3 out of 7 wins in the 2nd round (Thunder in 2011). In 2013, the team went to the Western Conference Finals, but they were ultimately eliminated by the Spurs in a 4 game sweep. Here the team is in 2015 in the Western Conference Semifinals playing against the top team in the league this season. Even though this Grizzlies team is arguably better than the ones in the previous 4 seasons, for some, that’s scary. To them I say, go big or go home. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. For me, this round is just another day at the office because as Z-Bo so eloquently put it, “this ain’t our first rodeo.”

This isn’t the Warriors’ first rodeo either, persay. However, the Splash Brothers (Curry and Thompson) aren’t as experienced as the Grizzlies’ Core Four (Conley, Allen, Randolph, Gasol) at playoff basketball. Even if Conley doesn’t play, people are quick to forget (or are simply unaware) that the back-up point guard, Beno Udrih, is an experienced veteran with 2 championship rings (Spurs) in his treasure chest. The Warriors lost to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs in 2014 (won 3 of 7). They lost to the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs in 2013 (won 2 of 6). They didn’t make the playoffs in 2011 or 2012. While the Warriors did sweep the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, it’s safe to say that they should have. They were the more experienced and better of those two teams. Yet, that series had its tough moments and wasn’t a cake walk for them. Contrary to popular belief, this one won’t be either.

Statistically Speaking

Those that are reading this and know me have been waiting on this I’m sure. See I’m a numbers gal. I deal in numbers. I do numbers. Numbers don’t lie.

1. This is the first time that these two teams have met each other in the playoffs. So, there’s no playoff history to go on here.

2. Of the last 10 regular season games between the two teams, the Grizzlies have won 6.

3. In every game between the two teams this year, the Splash Brothers have accounted for about 50% of the Warriors’ points (at least). There are two players amassing half the points. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one must be neutralized.

4. The Grizzlies bench has outscored the Warriors bench in every game this season. As a matter of fact, it was the Grizzlies bench that made up a huge point deficit in the 81st game of the season (Warriors won 111-107). In that particular game, the Grizzlies bench outscored the Warriors bench by 30 points (71-41).

5. Since the 2010-2011 season, the Grizzlies have won both series against number 1 seeds when they’ve played them (Spurs in 2011 and Thunder in 2013). Incidentally, just like now, the Grizzlies were in the 5th spot going against the 1st seed in 2013…the year they went to the Western Conference Finals.

What Needs to Happen

Doubtful is doubtful so let’s assume for all intents and purposes that Conley doesn’t play Game 1 and maybe even Game 2. How do the Grizzlies steal a win without him?

1. One of the Splash Brothers has to be neutralized; stifled if possible. Mr. First Team Defense Tony Allen is going to have to lead that charge. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Some back door cuts on the offensive end with a few animated flexes and change of possession dances would be great too.

2. Draymond Green, top contender for Defensive Player of the Year (let him tell it, he should have won), needs to get in foul trouble. The Grizzlies then need to capitalize offensively and defensively off his absence by scoring and preventing second chance opportunities for the Warriors.

3. While I’m all for helping a brother out, STAY WITH YO MAN! The Warriors’ ability to space the floor and move the ball is crazy. While you’re doubling one person, another is shooting a wide open, uncontested 3 point shot. The Grizzlies have to trust themselves and each other defensively.

4. The Courtney Lee that returned for the series against Portland has to keep it going in this series. The Grizzlies need him clicking on all cylinders every game. He is essential to the success of the backcourt.

5. The Vince Carter that was in Game 5 of the Portland series needs to stick around. Although it still looks as if his 3 point shot isn’t as solid as it used to be, his defense, overall basketball acumen, and ability to get to the rim are needed. I’ll take a solid 2 over a wild 3 any day.

6. It looks as if Jeff Green has lost a step. This is likely due to him playing through a back injury. His aggressiveness and athleticism are needed as well. If he and Vince Carter could both be on point at the same time, the Grizzlies are lethal.

7. Kosta Koufos has to continue to battle at the rim. His dominance in the front court is imperative on the defensive and offensive end. The Grizzlies need Koufos to keep the Warriors front court from capitalizing on second chance opportunities, and to keep the Warriors from shutting the Grizzlies out of second chance opportunities. A couple of sweet hook shots and dunks wouldn’t be too bad either.

8. If there was a way to combine Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih before 2:30, I’d certainly do it. Calathes is an underrated defender. Udrih is an overlooked offensive threat. There’s a safe balance for both of them, but rather than over trying, I’d prefer both of them to execute well at what they do well.

9. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have to be in sync and clicking on all cylinders. There isn’t a better front court duo than them (note that I didn’t include the adverb arguably; it’s not debatable in my mind). They have to dominate in the paint and make their defenders pay by creating fouls and getting to the free throw line.

10. While I realize that the trusted playoff line-up is pretty set, Coach Joerger may have to go a little deeper in the bench. I don’t think everyone on the bench should get some playing time, but I do think Jordan Adams should. Adams has proven to be a great defender and great offensively as well when he’s given minutes. All weapons that we have will need to be utilized. Adams is a weapon.

When It’s All Said and Done

When it’s all said and done, the Grizzlies are not as much of an underdog as people think. All hope isn’t lost without Mike Conley. This series can and will be competitive. I’d love to say Grizzlies in 6, with the Grizzlies winning games 3-6. Something tells me we may go to 7 though. In either case, Believe Memphis is Chasing Greater!

Game 1 Sunday, May 3 Oakland 2:30 p.m.
Game 2 Tuesday, May 5 Oakland 9:30 p.m.
Game 3 Saturday, May 9 Memphis 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 Monday, May 11 Memphis 8:30 p.m.
Game 5* Wednesday, May 13 Oakland TBD
Game 6* Friday, May 15 Memphis TBD
Game 7* Sunday, May 17 Oakland TBD


**Statistical data from nba.com, grizzlies.com, landofbasketball.com**

Carmen Patton
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