Monte Poole

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

He is a cheerful presence, a terrific teammate with considerable knowledge of how basketball should be played at the NBA level.

Only in exceedingly rare cases, though, is Anderson Varejao able to produce for the Warriors, and he’s no help at all when most of his teammates fail to show up.

Such was the case Saturday night in Memphis, when the Warriors, with Varejao starting at center in place of Zaza Pachulia, submitted their worst performance – worse, even, than that stunning setback to the Lakers on Dec. 4 – of the season in a 110-89 loss to a shorthanded Grizzlies team that, even when fully healthy, has difficulty scoring.

Though Varejao was a special level of awful, he was not alone in his ineptitude.

“It was one of those nights, you know,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Memphis.

Stephen Curry was careless on offense and indifferent on defense. Klay Thompson struggled with his shot and, therefore, his game. Draymond Green didn’t bring his usual energy but picked up a technical foul for beefing with an official. Durant didn’t meet his usual standard but acquitted himself relatively well.

The Warriors were smashed by a team of castoffs and hopefuls circulating around the established talents of Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Most of the damage, however, was self-inflicted – as in 23 turnovers, resulting in 30 points for the Grizzlies.

Asked what went wrong with the offense, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t hesitate.

“Everything,” he said. “Poor decision-making, poor ball-handling, good defense on their part. They were denying a lot of things and trying to knock us off our cuts, and they did a good job of that.”

So bad were the Warriors that Kerr, joked about his job status.

“I just checked with Bob,” he cracked, referring to general manager Bob Myers. “I’m not fired. I called him just to make sure.”

It was that kind of night, laughably bumbling, the kind of showing that has led to the firing of coaches on shaky status. It was stunning to watch the best team in the NBA, take the court at FedEx Forum and performed as if scrimmaging for season-ticket holders at team headquarters.

With stars Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Vince Carter out with injuries, the Grizzlies owned the night from the start, leading by as much as 30.

“We weren’t on the same page,” Thompson said. “We were trying to force too many things. We weren’t patient enough. When you play a team like that that plays at a slow pace you have to be patient. You can’t play at a fast pace like we have in the past. You have to be patient. You have to move the ball around the perimeter. You have to trust each other. It’s a bad night.”

The Warriors were playing without Andre Iguodala, who was resting, and Kevon Looney, who was nursing a sprained right ankle. Pachulia, with a contusion on his right wrist, was a late scratch.

The result was Varejao joining Green, Durant, Thompson and Curry in the starting lineup. It didn’t take long to get ugly, as Memphis took leads of 29-11 in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit lead until the final buzzer.

Varejao played 18 minutes and contributed five rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers. He took only two shots, missing both, and finished minus-21.

“We definitely missed Zaza,” Durant said, “but that’s not the reason why we missed the basketball game. We waited too long to try to be physical. Once we started it was a little too late.

“We definitely want to have all our guys there, but sometimes it’s not in play. We still have to go out there, and play a better game than we played tonight. It’s just one of those games we have to throw out and get ready for the next one tomorrow.”

Well, that’s all there is to do. Every team, no matter how gifted, will have nights when its members stagger about like zombies. The Warriors have had two in 24 games.

The upside of this one was that Kerr could pull his starters early in hopes of preserving them for a game Sunday against the defective but frisky young Minnesota Timberwolves.

NBA Gameday: Streaks on the line when Warriors tussle with Grizzlies

NBA Gameday: Streaks on the line when Warriors tussle with Grizzlies

In rising to the level of NBA elite the past few seasons, the Warriors have had to vanquish many ghosts along the way. The Memphis Grizzlies once fell into that category.

After a five-year stretch during which they lost 14 of 17 games against the Grizzlies – including eight in a row in Memphis – the Warriors now treat FedEx Forum like any other road venue. They’ve won four of the last five at the “Grindhouse.”

They’ll try to continue their recent domination when the teams meet Saturday night. Largely behind spells of fantastic defense, the Warriors (20-3) have won 16 of the last 17, including the last four in a row.

Though punctured by injuries, the Grizzlies (16-8) have managed to overachieve, winning five in a row under first-year head coach David Fizdale, a former Warriors assistant.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 12.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Zaza Pachulia vs. Marc Gasol. Already one of the best centers in the league, Gasol’s work at both ends has kept the Grizzlies afloat despite injuries to several key teammates. Though Pachulia will get the initial assignment, expect the Warriors to send a variety of defenders at “Big Spain.” Containing him is surest way for the Warriors to maintain control of the game.

LAST 10:
Warriors: 9-1. Grizzlies: 7-3.

OF NOTE:
Only two NBA players are averaging better than 19 points, four assists, 1.5 blocks while shooting at least 40 percent beyond the arc: Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Gasol.

INJURY REPORT:
Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (rest) and F Kevon Looney (R ankle sprain) are listed as out.

Grizzlies: F Vince Carter (R hip flexor strain) and G Troy Daniels (illness) are listed as questionable. G Mike Conley (lower back injury), F James Ennis III (R calf strain). F Chandler Parsons (L knee bone bruise) and F Brandan Wright (L ankle surgery) are listed as out.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have won the last six in a row and eight of the last nine.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Class is in session? With Conley out, rookie Andrew Harrison gets the primary assignment against Stephen Curry. Harrison is rangy enough (6-foot-6) to present problems. The Kentucky product also is the kind of blue-chip recruit Curry loves to take to school.

Who becomes the equalizer? Iguodala excels in the role of stabilizing the offense and creating havoc on defense. He’s unique enough that his absence will be felt. The Warriors need someone to fill that void. Pat McCaw and Shaun Livingston are the top candidates.

Beware the grind: Memphis is terrific at keeping it close and finding a finishing kick. They’re 12-0 in games that go into overtime or are decided by five or fewer points. So far this month they’ve come back to win despite trailing in the fourth quarter by 14 against Orlando, 13 against Portland and 10 against New Orleans.

Warriors fight off fatigue & complacency, win 'weird game' in Utah

Warriors fight off fatigue & complacency, win 'weird game' in Utah

The Warriors smelled trouble from the moment they left Los Angeles for their overnight flight to Salt Lake City, where on Thursday night, precisely 20 hours after they disposed of the Clippers in LA, they would face the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz announced Wednesday that four players – including three starters – would be out with injuries.

Trap Game, eh? It’s not a clich√©, not in today’s NBA, where the schedule is both unforgiving and remorseless.

And then on Thursday morning the Warriors received information that a fourth Utah starter, leading scorer Gordon Hayward, also would not be available.

With one healthy Jazz starter greeting the hottest team in the league, the Warriors caught a slight whiff of Eau de Upset. Acutely aware they were facing a severely shorthanded squad the Warriors swallowed hard and went immediately for the blowout.

They failed. Though they would win their 16th of 17 games and run their record to 20-3 by silencing the Jazz, 106-99, the Warriors also got a reminder that severely patchwork teams tend to bring the fight.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Stephen Curry told reporters at Vivint Smart Home Arena, “but got a win.”

Oh, it was beautiful early. The Warriors running and gunning and smothering Utah, taking a 29-5 lead barely eight minutes into the game and holding a 65-46 advantage at the half. They were achieving their goal of quickly opening this gift of a game to allow their starters to watch most of the second half.

Rarely is it that easy under these circumstances, and this would not be an exception. When patchwork NBA teams accept that winning is not an option, they set about avoiding embarrassment.

With a 12-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, the Jazz cut the deficit to nine (73-64), and when the Warriors steadied themselves to go up 14 (80-66) with 2:45 left in the third, the Jazz fashioned a 13-4 run to narrow it to 84-79.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr blamed it on a “lack of focus,” which is a symptom of presuming victory.

“Our first quarter was great; we pushed the ball. Our defensive intensity was fantastic and then we let down,” Kerr said. “We started turning it over with some careless, purposeless plays. We didn’t really have an idea of what we were trying to accomplish and then some defensive mistakes like not getting out on their shooters, and they took advantage.”

Outscoring the Warriors 53-41 in the second half, the Jazz – playing without Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and George Hill – made the vastly superior team sweat.

“They obviously played with a lot of energy,” said Curry, who scored a game-high 26 points. “They didn’t fold and we got a little stagnant on offense, it happens, but you just got to be able to finish the game out. The way we started gave us an opportunity to withstand their run and never really have the game out of hand.”

Kevin Durant ensured there would be no upset, performing the closeout with an 11-point fourth quarter. He scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half.

“Just tried to be aggressive,” Durant said. “I didn’t do a good job attacking throughout the game. I thought that was a good opportunity for me to attack. I got to the free throw line and that got me going. I got some dunks, a few cuts and Steph [Curry] helped me out as well.

“It was a weird game. It was a grind out game. We started off so well and then a three-pointer got them back in the game. They played physical later on the game and were able to take us out of our game a little bit, but we kept fighting and we got a good win on a back-to-back.”

In defeating the Jazz, the Warriors also held off two more formidable foes: fatigue and complacency. There are nights, and this was one of them, when the path to victory requires beating all three.