Warriors Fail to Put Away the Grizzlies
OAKLAND -- On Friday night against Memphis, the Warriors held a 19-point lead heading into the 4th quarter. The Warriors did not score a field goal until halfway into the 4th quarter, and the Grizzlies took advantage. Steph Curry dazzled early on in a 40-point effort, but could not convert on a poor look at the end of regulation. Memphis simply outplayed Golden State in the final frame to force overtime and pulled away in OT thanks to Marc Gasol and a few big shots from Troy Daniels. Despite their 31-6 record, Golden State has found difficulty sealing the win late in ballgames. Often times the Warriors build a big lead early in the second half, but seem to ease off the gas, allowing their opponents back into the game. The Warriors are usually able to convert most of these narrow contests into victories, but tonight showed how they must tighten up their play to close out games when it counts.
Tonight, we saw a wonderful performance from the two-time MVP. Steph Curry dropped 40 points and excelled finishing around the rim and passing the ball. Golden State has a tendency to fall into 'Hero ball' mode late in games. Whether its feeding Curry or Kevin Durant, the Dubs often lack offensive diversity in crunch time. Despite his early success, Curry took too many shots in the 4th. The Dubs seemed dependent on Steph down the stretch, and it hurt them. NBA teams have finally started to defend Curry well beyond the 3-point line. When they need a bucket, Golden State should look to find Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant coming off of a screen rather than running a high pick and roll for Steph. Durant is certainly skilled enough to win a 1-on-1 against any defender in the league, and Klay is automatic in a catch-and-shoot situation.
The offense was not the only issue down the stretch tonight. The Warriors lacked inside presence in the 4th and in overtime and it ultimately cost them the game. Zaza Pachulia had a dreadful 4th quarter attempting to defend Marc Gasol. Pachulia was overmatched by the skill and finesse of the Spaniard. Zaza was shoved around underneath by Gasol and Zach Randolph, and continued his soft flopping antics. Randolph also found the rim with ease while defended by Kevin Durant.
Steve Kerr will certainly need to re-evaluate the Warriors' 4th quarter game plan on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Warriors will need to find consistency and continue to move the ball. They play so swiftly and smooth early in games, but seem to tense up in crunch time when they need a big shot. On defense, the Warriors must simply get tough. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson cannot guard the entire opposing team. Zaza must take on a more defensive role and become a bully down low.
This is not me hitting the panic button. The Warriors are currently 31-6 atop the Western Conference, and have a favorable upcoming home stand. Tonight was simply a show of the Dubs' late game struggles. Golden State easily has the most talent in the NBA but they will need to be much sharper in the closing minutes of ballgames if they want to be champions.