Grading the Warriors' performance vs. Memphis

HIGHLIGHTS: Grizzlies' big men too much for Warriors

Grading the Warriors' performance vs. Memphis
January 10, 2013, 10:45 am
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Klay Thompson finished with 20 points (6-for-13 FG), seven rebounds, and seven assists. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

GENERAL THOUGHTS

Big and fast = bad matchup: Memphis is the prototypical size-and-speed team that the Warriors must eventually become if they’re going to really contend for a championship.  The Warriors don’t have a guard on their roster right now as fast as Mike Conley.  Also, while the Warriors only have one 6’10”+ and/or 250+ pound player who’s proven himself to be a rebounding AND offensive force (and that player—Andrew Bogut—is hurt), the Grizzlies have three in Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Marreese Speights. 

With these size and speed advantages, the Grizzlies can defeat sound position defense with sheer ability to the point where the opposition starts to leave men wide open as defenders double team and help with greater frequency.  This scenario played out over and over again in the Warriors' eight straight loss to Memphis.  The Warriors have lost both meetings with Memphis this season. 

[INSTANT REPLAY: Grizzlies 94, Warriors 87]

They’re also 0-2 against the Magic, Lakers, and Kings, and 1-2 against the Nuggets.

It will be a struggle all year for the Warriors to handle teams featuring truly skilled bigs.  Throw in some speed in the backcourt, and you might just have the perfect lineup to beat the Warriors.

“See-no-Grizzlies’zlie-evil” referees:  Yes, the Grizzlies had a size and strength advantage over the Warriors.  But, the referees made that disparity worse by allowing Randolph, Gay and others to throw Warriors defenders out of the way WWE-style.  Meanwhile, David Lee is still wondering how he can get called for fouling Randolph without touching him!

PLAYER GRADES:

STEPH CURRY    B

The good: 24 points, 4-for-8 from 3-point range, and some good passes
The bad: some sloppy ball handling, 10-22 overall shooting, some help defense that wasn’t helpful

The Grizzlies were all over Curry early on, running fresh bodies at him on the perimeter to deny the outside shot.  On the other end, he was getting picked a fair amount. 

Maybe he could have done a better job fighting through a couple of them—but it’s not like he didn’t try.  Memphis drew up a lot perfect plays that their players perfectly executed. 

With eight minutes left in the second quarter, Conley was just too fast for Curry—sprinting past him for a lay-in along the baseline.  On the next possession, Curry was cheating over when the ball was on other side of the court—leaving Tony Allen open for a layup that he missed.  Later, he left Conley to double-team a driving Jerryd Bayless, who threw back to Conley for a 3-pointer that Curry was—by then--to far away from to stop. 

Curry had five points in the final minute of the first half to make it only a nine-point deficit going into recess.  In the third, he lost the ball on an early possession and missed a wide open 3 on a subsequent possession.  Later, he made an excellent entry pass to Festus Ezeli for a layup.  But then, he got cute with a bounce pass that Randolph intercepted. 

Later, he made a bad throwback pass to Lee that Biedrens luckily saved.  Curry’s jumper tied the game at 74 with 7:34 left in the 4th.  He made a bad entry pass for a turnover in crunch time as the Warriors were trying to complete the comeback.

KLAY THOMPSON    A

The good: Mostly excellent in every phase of the game
The bad: Had trouble when asked to guard Rudy Gay, left his man for help defense too often

I think this was Klay’s best game of the year.  He started with a nice double team on the first Grizzlies possession.  Then, he followed it up by hitting the jumper. Then, he ripped down a rebound on next Memphis trip. 

Later, he had a smooth finish on fastbreak after an Ezeli block.  Then, Klay made a great feed to Lee for a dunk.  In another sequence, Thompson started the break, passed to Curry for a jumper and then caught Curry’s airball for a quick putback.  Beautiful sequence! 

Then on the Warriors' last possession of the quarter, he made a great entry pass to Lee for a layup.  Thompson played a perfect first quarter with eight points, three assists and three rebounds. 

He got the first W’s rebound of the second quarter, but missed a 3 at the other end.  He found himself guarding 6’9”, 235 pound Darrell Arthur later and left him open for a jumper while trying to help on defense.  But, with about 3 minutes left in the half, he made a fine pass to Curry for the Warriors first triple of the night.  Minutes later, Thompson needlessly cheated into the lane when the ball was on other side of the court, leaving his man—Bayless—wide open for a triple.  But Thompson came back and knocked down a tough angle triple to cut the lead to six right off the bat in the second half. 

Later, he had a nice steal of a Randolph pass.  With Klay being a guard, you sometimes forget he’s 6’7”.  But, he used all of that length to bother Gasol into a jumpshot that hit backboard but no iron.  Gasol returned the favor a few minutes later when Thompson made an ill-advised drive and floater attempt. 

Klay’s triple with 3:10 left in the third cut the Grizzlies’ lead to four.  On the next Memphis possession, he bothered Gay into missing a bank shot.  Then, he made a nice back door cut three minutes into the fourth to draw a foul.  Down the stretch, Coach Mark Jackson went to his customary “finisher” lineup of three guards (Curry, Thompson, and Jack) and two offensive-minded bigs (Lee and Landry).  This left Thompson often matched up against Gay, who proceeded to bully Thompson with his superior strength.  Thompson fought gamely in what was an unwinnable matchup for him.

The fourth quarter came, and Klay stepped up.  He had a nice fall-away jumper to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to seven again.  Then, he deflected a Gay pass that should have been a Curry steal the other way.  But, Curry couldn’t find the handle.

HARRISON BARNES    B

The good: Used his athleticism and awareness to make an impact, despite not getting the ball much, great effort and very good results guarding Rudy Gay
The bad: Two mistakes that I could see…which is pretty good for a guy who played 27 minutes

He had his hands full guarding Gay; I thought he did a good job fighting through picks and staying in Gay’s grill.  He lost the ball on a drive to Gay, who scored on the other end.   On the offensive end, Barnes’ shot wasn’t falling early.  But he made plays anyway, which is the biggest thing that separates him from his predecessor, Dorell Wright.  

Barnes hustled for an alley-oop finish that ended a 16-2 run.  He later made a nice rip of Tony Allen to force a jump ball.  In second-half action, he made heads-up athletic steals on consecutive possessions.   Later, he helped a beaten Lee by sprinting over to block a Randolph shot.  Barnes later got robbed when the refs called a foul on him for his clean block of Gasol late in the third. 

One sequence showed both his promise and his youth.  Barnes came up with a nice block of Allen.  But when Allen recovered the ball and motioned a jump shot, Barnes left his feet and allowed Allen to get past him on a play that resulted in a Speights layup.  But later, Barnes hit a huge triple to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 74-70.

FESTUS EZELI    C+

The good: On defense, he really made Gasol and Randolph work, very active with taps and knock aways (3 steals)
The bad: Once again, catching the ball for Festus was an adventure, took a couple of shots that he’s not yet equipped to make, four turnovers

Once again, his stat line (six points, two rebounds, a block, three steals) did not completely reflect his true impact.  He started with a great block of a Conley shot led to a Thompson lay-in at the other end.  Later, he was slow to help out after two picks on Curry set Conley free for a drive to the lane.  Later, pressure in the lane caused him to panic and throw the ball away resulting in a layup at the other end. 

On the next possession though, he outfought two guys for the offensive rebound and the putback slam.  Later, he made a nice cut to the basket for the dunk—although he almost dropped Lee’s great pass.  He had a nice knock away of an entry pass to Gasol.  Curry saved another Ezeli dropped pass with a catch of a ball that went right through Ezeli’s hands for a Curry gift layup. 

Later, Festus got called for a moving screen early in the third.  Later, Ezeli might have made his best catch and finish of the year on an entry pass from Curry.  He had good activity around the rim keeping balls alive and challenging shots in the paint.  Ezeli’s knock away of an entry pass led to a Curry layup that brought the Warriors to within seven. 

Festus showed great awareness with 2:20 left on defense.  After a Curry deflection, Gasol found himself with the ball 15 feet from the hoop and only three seconds to shoot.  Ezeli could have run out to challenge the shot, but he wisely recognized that doing so would leave Randolph wide open underneath.  Ezeli ran to Randolph—forcing Gasol to take (and miss) the jumper. 

On the Warriors' next possession, though, Festus missed an open jumper from 18 feet—he probably shouldn’t be shooting those right now.  With the Warriors having a chance to tie the game at 84, Ezeli got an entry pass that he should have immediately kicked back out.  Instead, he took a way-too-short hook shot over Gasol.  That was the worst time for him to try and create his own shot.  He’s not good enough at that yet to steal a shot from Curry, Thompson or Lee.

DAVID LEE    C+

The good: Creative offense got Warriors some needed points, lots of crisp passes, mostly good position defense on Randolph, some good rebounding work
The bad: Despite good position often helpless to stop Randolph, critical missed free throws, His usually reliable jumper is still M.I.A.

He continues to be such a creative finisher, which was good because he missed his first four 15-to-18 foot jumpers (shots that are usually automatic for him, but not so the last two games).  He had a good early knock away from Gasol. Even though Randolph scored 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting, I don’t think Lee played bad defense. Randolph just hit a bunch of shots that were defended by Lee about as well as a guy could defend them. 

What Lee lacks in power, he often makes up for in skill/savvy.  He made a great pass to Landry for a layup.  And, he was pulling down some tough rebounds early (10 for the game). But as the game wore on, Randolph posted him up more—putting Lee in the spot of either positioning behind Randolph to keep him from having a direct cutting lane to the basket or positioning in front of Randolph to deny the entry pass.  Whichever course Lee chose, Randolph made him pay. Once when Lee tried to front Randolph, Arthur found him for a dunk.  Later, Randolph beat Lee for offensive rebounding position twice on the same possession—Randolph scored on the second one.  Later, Randolph beat Lee for an offensive board again—though it didn’t lead to a hoop.  Randolph scored later when Lee left him to double Gasol. 

Back to Lee’s offense -- I appreciate that he seemed to recognize that his jumper wasn’t falling and started taking it hard to the hole every time.  That’s smart basketball.  He also seemed to recognize that he needed to counteract the Grizzlies’ size by getting his shots up quicker—something he did successfully more than once. 

Lee really hurt the Warriors, though, by missing four of six free throws.  And, after the game was tied at 74, Randolph again out-positioned and out-muscled Lee for an offensive rebound putback.  A few possessions later, Randolph got deep position and Lee was helpless to stop him.  Then, with the Warriors in position to tie the game at 84, Lee made a very bad pass that led to a turnover.  The Warriors never got to within two again. 

Lee finally hit a wide open 18 footer to make it 88-84 Grizzlies.  With the score 90-87 Grizzlies in the final seconds and Memphis needing points to ice it, it’s not surprising that Memphis tried to exploit the Randolph vs. Lee matchup one last time.  Randolph was able to draw a questionable (on the referees part) foul from Lee and hit two free throws.  Game over.

 JARRETT JACK    D+

The good: Ran the offense efficiently for a few possessions, made a tremendous shot near the end of the third quarter
The bad: For the second straight game, he seemed a step slow and out of position on defense, did not help out with any scoring

Just as he did often in the Clippers game, Jack lost his man on a cut to the hoop for a layup in the first quarter.   A couple of possessions later, he let Allen get rebounding position on him.  Allen ripped down an offensive board—extending a Memphis possession that wound up saddling Biedrins with a foul and with a Mo’ Speights reverse layup. 

Later, Jack lost Bayless on a give-and-go cut which wound up as and “and-1” (Bayless missed the  free throw).  In the second quarter, though, Jack started to find his stride running the offense.  He had a nice laser beam pass inside to Landry , who got fouled and hit two free throws. 

Three minutes into the second, he threw a pass directly to Conley, winding up in two free thows for Allen.  Jack didn’t score in the first half—which is quite noticeable because his scoring off the bench has been key in a lot of Warrior wins this year. 

His signature play of the night came with 90 seconds left in the third when he muscled through Conley’s hard foul for a shotput style bucket from the top of the key.  He hit the free throw to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to one.  Those were his only points of the night. 

He wasn’t fast enough—with 6:30 left in the four—to keep up with Conley on his cross lane drive and finish that put Memphis back up three.  Then—with the dubs down 86-82—Jack got passage to the paint Courtesy of a Landry pick.  But, Gasol was waiting for him, so Jack pulled up for the jumper.  Meanwhile, Bayless had fought through Landry’s pick and was there to block the shot.  Neither Jack nor Curry were any match for Conley’s speed as he got the ball on the break and laid it in.

CHARLES JENKINS    F
The first time he touched the ball, he lost the dribble and turned it over.   Allen hit the layup on the other end.  And, Jenkins didn’t get a chance to show off his dead eye mid-range jumper.  He only played two minutes the whole night.

CARL LANDRY        B

The good: Efficient offense (13 points of 5-6 shooting), drew fouls and hit five of six foul shots, great rebounding
The bad: Outside shot was iffy, had real trouble when matched up with Rudy Gay

Hit his first shot- a jumper.  Managed to draw a foul the next possession—but from about 12 feet away (I like him taking his shots in the paint).  Later, he had a great finish off a Lee pass in the second quarter.  He scored 10 points in his first five minutes of action.  However, he only managed three points over his last 20 minutes of playing time. 

Late in the game, he found himself guarding Gay.  Landry just couldn’t stay in front of Gay the way Barnes could. Gay hit a running hook over him.  On the plus side, Landry did pull down a number of tough and timely rebounds in this one— nine rebounds in all to go with 13 points

ANDRIS BIEDRINS    C

He had some solid defense on Randolph.  Later, though, he was slow to switch when Jack got picked off from Bayless—leaving Gasol so wide open that Landry had to leave Speights to stop Gasol.  Gasol found Speights for the layup.  Biedrins did manage to pull down two rebounds in six minutes of action

DRAYMOND GREEN    C

Once again, he couldn’t knock down a wide open jumper -- his 3 to begin the second quarter found iron.  Later, he was between Gay and the basket, but couldn’t stop Gay from scoring.  Then again, in four minutes of action, he was able to make fundamentally sound plays like pulling down a rebound and logging an assist.  He was a team high +4 when he was out there.