After six games of chaos, the Memphis Grizzlies prevailed in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against a feisty Minnesota Timberwolves team. Next up for the Grizzlies is a matchup with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. While the Warriors certainly have an edge in postseason experience, the Grizzlies enter this series having a key edge in preparation.
Warriors were 1-3 vs Grizzlies in the regular season— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) April 30, 2022
-First loss: No Klay, JP was dreadful
-Second loss: No Draymond, JP was dreadful
-Third loss: No Steph/Klay/Draymond
PS: Warriors were 1-3 vs Nuggets in the reg season
In eliminating the Wolves, Memphis found a way to contain Minnesota’s star-studded backcourt, including Anthony Edwards and De’Angelo Russell. Grizzlies’ head coach Taylor Jenkins put an obvious defensive emphasis on defending the perimeter and forcing the Wolves into taking bad shots.
After averaging 18 PPG in the regular season, Russell was held to just 12 PPG in the series. Russell’s struggles could be attributed to the Grizzlies’ shut down defender Dillon Brooks, who guarded him with relentless pressure in the half-court. Typically tasked with locking down the opposing team’s best guard, Brooks will be called upon to check Curry, Thompson, and rising star Jordan Poole throughout this series.
Memphis has the blueprint to beat guard-dominant teams, but the Warriors are a different animal. Unlike Minnesota, Golden State will not go through terrible spells filled with turnovers and bad shots.
On one hand, the Grizzlies are coming off a series with an opponent that shares some similarities with its second-round opponent. Conversely, the Grizzlies do not have much in common with the Warriors’ first-round opponent – the Denver Nuggets.
Steph Curry mentioned how the Grizzlies have a lot of options w/ their lineups and size but said they are going to try to negate that with the Warriors speed and spacing.— Meghan Triplett (@Meghan_Triplett) April 30, 2022
The Nuggets ran its offense almost exclusively through likely MVP Nikola Jokic. The 6’11” center was able to pound the Warriors inside and create opportunities for his teammates on the outside. Unfortunately for Denver, its backcourt was missing the production of Jamal Murray, forcing the Nuggets to play an inside-out style offensively.
The Grizzlies provide a completely different challenge for the Warriors’ defense. Guards Ja Morant and Desmond Bane will handle much of the load offensively as they have done for the entire season. The duo, paired with Brooks’ ability to knock down threes will extend Golden State’s defense and leave the painted area open for Morant’s dribble drives.
Another bonus with this particular matchup is that the Grizzlies should be able to find Steven Adams some minutes. Memphis’ leading rebounder in the regular season (10 RPG) fell out of the rotation against the Wolves’ athletic big man in Karl Anthony-Towns. The Warriors’ Kevon Looney does not require the defensive attention that Towns did in round one.
It’s never easy to play against Draymond Green, either. Green plays through the whistle and plays a physical game, which has irritated opponents throughout his time in the NBA. But after the Grizzlies handled notorious instigator Patrick Beverley with relative ease, Memphis should be prepared for Green’s antics.
Game 1 tips off on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 CT in the FedExForum as Memphis has the luxury of home-court advantage. Both teams play with an edge not often found in today’s NBA, which should make for a thrilling series. Memphis is looking to secure its second Western Conference Finals berth in franchise history.
Featured image via Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports