As is quickly becoming a habit, the Warriors dispatched another Western Conference playoff hopeful without much stress.
The pregame intrigue involved a budding big man controversy between centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. But when the game started, however, it was all Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Stephen Curry. The Warriors' best wing athletes gave the Warriors offense all they needed to put away a disappointing Grizzlies squad in the second half.
The Warriors cruised to a commanding 26-15 first quarter advantage on the strength of their defense, which limited Memphis to just 26% shooting from the field, and just 32 points in the paint. On the other end, the once-dominant Memphis front court continued to show leaks, as its slower traditional big men struggled to protect the rim and stretch out to defend the Warriors space-and-pace offense.
The Dubs tallied just 16 fast break points, but at times it seemed like far more as Warriors players relentlessly jumped passing lanes to gain additional possessions. Unfortunately, the Warriors were careless with the ball yet again, which added up to 23 turnovers, 14 of which were forced by a Memphis steal.
Things got particularly sloppy in the second and third quarters, as the Warriors gave about nine possessions to Memphis, mid-fastbreak, in what must've been an act of compassion for a struggling offense. Memphis would go on to make a game of it, down just one point in the third quarter. Despite excellent defense, the Warriors bigs had a tough time keeping Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph off the free throw line, where he shot a Curry-esque 13-of-14.
Like so many times this season, it was Stephen Curry to the rescue. He completed an unconventional four-point play, a driving layup, and should have received another four point play on the very next play as stole the ball and was bumped while making a fall-on-his-face bank three. Nine points in 37 seconds, on the road, en route to a 17-point #ThirdQuarter. Typical Curry.
Despite the victory, it was a disappointing night for Festus Ezeli, who had earned the start ahead of Bogut. Ezeli was largely invisible, with 3 points and 5 rebounds in twenty minutes. He racked up fouls at an alarming rate, and had a very difficult time controlling Gasol. Bogut didn't do so much better, with 3 points and 7 rebounds in fifteen minutes. Draymond Green, who matched up with Zach Randolph, also looked somewhat human for once. He posted a 7-6-4 slash line before fouling out in 28 minutes.
Golden State should be satisfied that, in a game where Memphis had a clear and obvious positional advantage down low, the Warriors still managed the game from start to finish. It wasn't pretty, and the Dubs hardly played their best basketball (in fact, you could argue that this ranked right there with the Sacramento game as the worst of the season) -- but road wins over good teams aren't supposed to be easy to come by.
The Warriors tied the franchise-record for wins to open a season at 9-0, on the front-end of this far-east-but-somehow-still-western-conference road back-to-back. They can set the new all-time mark tomorrow night in Minnesota. Stay tuned.