OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors haven’t had to employ their trademark third-quarter runs very often this season — they’ve been doing just fine building huge leads by halftime — but on Monday they reminded us just how devastating those barrages can be.
After an even first half, Golden State blitzed the Memphis Grizzlies in the third quarter en route to a 117-101 win at Oracle Arena. The Warriors held Grizzlies All-Stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to just 17 combined points, though Gasol did nearly have a triple-double with eight points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. And that defensive effort was mostly without Draymond Green, who didn’t return for the second half after suffering a foot contusion early in the game.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Slow and steady
The Grizzlies came into Monday’s matchup with the Warriors playing at the second-slowest pace in the NBA, and before the game coach JB Bickerstaff stressed the importance of maintaining that pace if they were going to have a shot. In the first half, they accomplished their goal, selectively pushing the ball up court but mostly playing a deliberate game, with a lot of the two-man game, dribble hand-offs and post-ups. They held the Warriors to 58 first-half points, an accomplishment given Golden State came into the game averaging 74 points in the first half over their past three games. The score was tied at the half, and it looked like the Grizzlies had executed their game plan pretty well. But then …
Same script, different players
With Green in the locker room and Memphis looking like it might make a game of things, the Warriors went on one of their trademark third-quarter assaults, a 14-0 run to build a 19-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Of course Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were heavily involved, but reserve big man Kevon Looney was an unsung hero of the run, getting offensive rebounds and finishing repeatedly in traffic. He finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds, doing most of his damage in the third quarter.
Just when it looked like the Grizzlies might start to close the gap, Alfonzo McKinnie buried a corner 3-pointer from almost behind the basket, causing Oracle to erupt.
He continued thrilling the crowd with stellar defensive plays and a breakaway dunk in the fourth quarter, and he finished the game with 14 points on 2 of 3 3-pointers, to go along with three assists. Steve Kerr has talked about the energy that the young players have brought to this season’s version of the Warriors, and it was on display Monday night.
Well, he didn’t set an NBA record for 3-pointers, but it was clear from the start of the game that Klay Thompson was feeling it. After the Warriors’ third-quarter run, Thompson took over with Curry and Durant on the bench, expanding the lead and turning the game into a certified blowout. Thompson finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, including 3-for-7 from 3-point range.
Grit N’ Grind back in the playoffs?
You won’t see Tony Allen or Zach Randolph on the court, but the Grizzlies look the part of a Western Conference playoff contender. They lack the offensive firepower to keep up with a team such as the Warriors (they’re not alone in this regard), but Conley and Gasol will lead them to plenty of wins this season, provided they can stay healthy. Bickerstaff called the duo a steadying force on a team that has a lot of new parts, and said Conley’s leadership skills make his job much easier. Jaren Jackson Jr. is already contributing despite his relatively raw skill set, and the veteran supporting cast is chocked full of role players. It’s crowded out West, but it would be foolish to count the Grizz out.
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