Well, here we are, Warriors fans, a couple Kosta Koufos out-of-nowhere jams, timely Tayshaun Prince jumpers, and Mike Conley clutch baskets later after a semi-heart-breaking loss (again) at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. It didn't help that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were allowed to gang up on poor defense-less David Lee much of the time. I know, I know, he's actually not as bad as everyone makes him out to be on that side of the ball, but on nights like tonight against the more bruising-ish type PF's in the league, it sure feels like he's "earned" that reputation. Fortunately, and let's be honest here, there really aren't too many guys in the Zach Randolph mould these days.
Oh, and did I mention the Warriors were without lovable superstar and anti-pure point guard Stephen Curry who was out with a smashed noggin? Without Curry, as in the San Antonio game a couple weeks back, the Warriors defense had to step up, and it really did. Even though at times Randolph and Gasol looked unstoppable, the Grizzlies only managed to shoot 38.6% from the floor and 25% from behind the arc.
So what were the decisive factors in this one? A subtle, but key factor, is simply the outstanding ball control and turnover avoidance displayed by the Conley-led Grizzlies. They had 6 turnovers on the night compared to the Warriors 14. Now, 14 turnovers on a night without Stephen Curry and with Andre Iguodala assuming the point guard responsibility for most of the night is actually quite impressive. It wouldn't have shocked me at all if the Warriors had 20 turnovers tonight, and this game turned into a blowout. And the strange thing here with Memphis is that they only rank 17th in the league right now in turnover rate, but however they got there tonight, the +8 TOV differential for the Dubs was probably a killer.
Aside from the turnover differential, a more obvious differentiator tonight was the offensive rebounding advantage (16 to 7) enjoyed by the Grizzlies with 7 combined between Randolph and Gasol. It's clear that even if you force Memphis into tough shots, if you can't keep them off the glass, it does little good.
On the Warriors side, the defense was stout, as one would have hoped to see even and maybe especially with the absence of Curry, who is undoubtedly one of the two weakest links defensively in the starting unit (you know the other one by now). But offensively, we also know how much of a difference maker Curry is, not just because he is an all-time great shooter, but indirectly, how his presence on the floor helps his teammates score more efficiently. Of course, it would be silly to assume that, for example, Andre Iguodala is going to shoot 70% in every game (he seemingly has this season). But tonight Iguodala's shots didn't fall (he went just 3 for 14), and I suspect some of that can be attributed to the absence of Curry and the additional scoring burden that was likely put upon him. Here's where I get up on my usage-efficiency soapbox, but most of you have heard that speech before, so no need to belabor the point further.
Let's see. What else. Harrison Barnes looked pretty good, at least, he looks really good when dunking on unguarded rims or posting up Mike Conley-sized point guards. While Barnes has certainly been impressive at times, I'm still not really seeing a guy who can be a primary offensive threat, but could excel as a role player and a guy who can clearly take advantages of mismatches at times when given the opportunity. But to my eyes, neither Barnes, nor Klay Thompson are yet guys who can carry a significant offensive load outside of the shadow of Stephen Curry. Then again, maybe that ability would price those two out of realm of possibility of extending their rookie deals.
One more thing. And I don't know if this is just me or what, but when Randolph really started to abuse Lee over and over again in the 4Q, I couldn't help but wonder why Mark Jackson didn't keep Draymond in the game, and maybe take out Barnes or just keep Lee on the bench. And I say this as a Lee fan (or maybe apologist is a more appropriate description at this point). There are times when matchups dictate personnel and I thought having Bogut on Gasol and Draymond on ZBo (who clearly has more success on him), would have made more sense at the time. Not saying I'm right and Jackson is wrong, but I think it's an interesting discussion to have, and I'd be interested to hear differing opinions (as long as they are the same as mine!).
So, to sum it all up, the bad news tonight is that we lost a basketball game. The good news is that there are 70 more games left, Stephen Curry will likely be back for a lot of those games, and the Warriors are still looking damn impressive in the early going of the season.
But Memphis. They have our number until proven otherwise. I have this sneaking suspicion that somehow we end up in a 4-5 matchup with those guys.