Fast Forward: Warriors welcome Grizzlies for major West showdown

Fast Forward: Warriors welcome Grizzlies for major West showdown
March 28, 2014, 1:15 pm
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In their last matchup, the Grizzlies scored 82 points, the fewest they'd put up against the Warriors since 2006. (USATSI)

KEYS TO THE GAME:

1. Stay in overdrive. The Warriors need to do all they can to speed up the game.

2. Choke the passing lanes. One way to trigger transition baskets is to stay active and force turnovers.

3. Frustrate Z-Bo. Randolph is not the loose cannon he once was, but he can be neutralized by consistent physicality.

Programming note: Grizzlies-Warriors coverage starts tonight at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

OAKLAND -- The most turbulent week of this Warriors season hits a crossroads Friday night at Oracle Arena.

The building will be white-hot with curiosity and anticipation for a game with profound ramifications on the Western Conference playoff race and, perhaps more important, decisions sure to be made this offseason.

As if the Memphis Grizzlies, a long-time nemesis, were not enough of a challenge, the Warriors also must cope with their own internal upheaval and what, if anything, it means over these final three weeks of the regular season.

[RELATED: NBA standings]

"We don't have any individuals pointing fingers," coach Mark Jackson said. "When we have stretches when we're losing, we're tied together. When have stretches when we're winning, we're tied together. When you have stretches where individuals aren't playing up to par, we're tied together.

"It's a great opportunity for us to create some space and to take care of business at home. When we do what we're supposed to do, we do exactly that. We take care of business. But that's a team that has a rhythm right now. And give them credit. It's going to be hard fought intense game."

The Warriors (44-27) currently hold the No. 6 seed in the West. The Grizzlies (43-28) are one game back, holding the No. 7 seed. A Warriors loss means they lose the season series to Memphis and drop to seventh.

After starting slowly in the wake of a coaching change -- Dave Joerger replaced Lionel Hollins -- and the loss of center Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have been on a rampage, winning 26 of 35 games since Gasol returned in mid-January.

"You can obviously see they missed him when he was gone," Stephen Curry said of Gasol. "And they've banded together since he's been back. He's kind of the anchor for them."

Memphis builds its offense around big men Zach Randolph and Gasol, with Randolph usually down low and Gasol at the high post. They may be the league's most physical duo in the paint, which presents a challenge to Warriors center Andrew Bogut.

That issue becomes more of a challenge if power forward David Lee is unable to play. He has a strained hamstring and will be a game-time decision. If he can't go, it's likely that Jackson at times will pair Jermaine O'Neal and Bogut.

[RELATED: Lee, Iguodala still questionable for Warriors vs. Grizzlies]

Meanwhile, Curry will be occupied with his own duel. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is a load, a near All-Star and the team's floor leader.

Coming out of a five-day break in the schedule, the Warriors' first priority will be avoiding the slow starts that have plagued them in numerous previous games. A double-digit deficit against Memphis is almost impossible to overcome.

Above all, this is a game in which the Warriors will show where they stand in the aftermath of Jackson's demotion of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine and reports that the team is increasingly dysfunctional.

[RELATED: Warriors work amid increased scrutiny]

"The goal is to have the best season we can and go into the playoffs playing our best basketball and go from there," Curry said. "Coach has done a great job all year of putting us in position to be successful."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bogut/Lee/O'Neal vs. Randolph and Gasol. Here is where the game likely will be dictated. Randolph is too much for Lee but can be neutralized by the Bogut. In which case somebody then must deal with all 7 feet of Gasol.

Curry vs. Conley. Curry thrives in transition, whether he's pulling up for 3-pointers or going to the rim. Conley takes a more measured approach, playing dogged defense and running the halfcourt offense with precision.

INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, Andre Iguodala (knee tendinitis) and David Lee (strained hamstring) are game-time decisions. C Festus Ezeli (right knee rehab) is out.

For the Grizzlies, F Quincy Pondexter (right foot fracture) is out.

LAST 10: Warriors 7-3, Grizzlies 8-2.

SERIES HISTORY: A 108-82 Warriors victory last Dec. 7 at Memphis snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Grizzlies. The Warriors have lost 16 of the last 20 meetings, including the last five in a row in Oakland. The Warriors are seeking their first season split with the Grizzlies since 2009-10.