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What to expect when you're expecting, NBA playoff edition: Warriors vs. Grizzlies

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Expectations have never been higher for the Golden State Warriors as the team prepares for their second round opponent. Here's a look at what happened when we played against the Memphis Grizzlies in the regular season, and what we can expect to see in our best of seven playoff series.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

April 27, 2015... Playoff stats edited April 29, 2015

The Warriors entered this postseason as the #1 overall seed. Their 67-15 record in the regular season led the West by a whopping eleven games, and seven games better than the East's top seed, the Atlanta Hawks. The top odds sites on the worldwide web agree: VegasInsider.com has the Dubs as the favorites to win the title this June, while OddsShark.com has the Warriors tied with the Cavs for the best odds to take home a ring this season.

The Warriors incredible regular season run meant the team now has real expectations. A four game sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans only raised those expectations. Meanwhile, Golden State of Mind has provided excellent coverage, previews, and recaps every step of the way. As expectations have become realities, our little community has echoed a newly discovered confidence in the team, rallying around our diminutive Brazilian's March 21st postgame interview.

We gonna be championship.

Of course, there is still a gauntlet of the NBA's best teams to go through for the Warriors to achieve the success that seems so close. The Warriors have a target on their backs, and the next team that wants a crack at them is the Memphis Grizzlies.

Round 2: the Western Conference Semifinals

When Nate Parham asked me yesterday if I would write a review of our regular season games against the Grizzlies, my first thought was, "Didn't I just do that?"  I felt that my Walking in Memphis article was one of the best pieces I had written, and I wasn't sure how to approach the same subject and give it a different flair just two weeks later.

But hey, one of my favorite things about jazz is the way the same songs change with every performance. If John Zorn can have so many dramatically different versions of the same song, surely I can come up with a second review of my favorite team's games against a team I've worried about since the offseason.

BTW, I think the Grizzlies can be excellent this season. They scare me. I think they’re probably the 5 seed in the West, but they’re so big and physical up front that I think they could beat us. If they get the right matchups, I think they have a shot at a title, just like us.

Last year, the Grizzlies finished 50-32. On January 28th, 2014, one of the NBA's best analysts tweeted, "I'm pretty sure nobody will want to face the Memphis Grizzlies come playoff time."

That analyst was Steve Kerr.

Despite our 2-1 record against them in the regular season, I don't think Memphis is a team to be taken lightly. I stand by everything I said in that comment, including the part about how they could beat us. Coach Kerr thought they were tough last season, and they are even better this year. They play big, pounding the ball inside and punishing opponents with the league's most balanced scoring big man tandem, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Those two combined for 33.5 points per game for the Grizzlies. Mike Conley has been a great floor general for the team, and Courtney Lee and Vince Carter have provided some scoring from the wing to supplement Tony Allen's prolific defense. Jeff Green hasn't fit the way they had envisioned, but he still adds another scoring option for them. Add in Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, and the Grizzlies look like a deep, tough team to match up with. They'll need that depth while Conley and Beno Udrih nurse their current injuries.

So far in the postseason, they look like a juggernaut. In the regular season they ranked 26th in the league with a 92.0 pace. They've managed to slow the game down even more against Portland, crawling along at a pace of just 91.4 through that series. Despite playing at that pace and posting an eFG% of just .465, they are still scoring 100.6 points per game, good for a staggering ORtg of 110.

A big part of their success revolves around the way they value the basketball. In the playoffs through four games, they've committed just 7.6 turnovers per game, which speaks as much to their offense as it does to Portland's poor perimeter defense. On the season, Memphis averaged 13.3 turnovers per game.

I'm pretty sure nobody will want to face the Memphis Grizzlies come playoff time. -Steve Kerr


Portland's lackluster defense actually looks like the primary culprit for the Grizzlies big advantage in the first round. Gasol (.523 TS%), Randolph (.383 TS%), and Jeff Green (.384 TS%) are all dominating the ball for Memphis and none of them are shooting well, despite being the team's leading shot takers.

Of course, the Warriors are in the conversation for best defensive big man tandem in the league, with Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut both looking like locks for the All NBA Defensive team. They will need to be the answer to the Grizzlies "grit and grind" game, as Memphis will go inside for points over and over again. On the season, Joerger's squad led the league in two point field goals made, despite ranking just 19th in two point field goal percentage.

Meanwhile, Mike Conley, Beno Udrih, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Courtney Lee, and Kosta Koufos, are all scoring with good efficiency. Those players' TS% range from .522 -.777, but Dave Joerger hasn't made any adjustment to the offense to compensate. It seems that he'd prefer to "dance with who brung you" than adjust, which could play right into the Warriors hands.

In the regular season matchups between the Grizzlies and Warriors, Memphis' grit and grind pulled down 0.3 more rebounds per game. It's hard to call a solitary rebound over three games an edge, especially when the Dubs outrebounded the Grizzlies in two of the teams three games, and the Warriors won the only game that Memphis managed to outrebound them in.

How about the Grizzlies awesome turnover ranking? Well, they turned the ball over 15.3 times against Golden State, who coughed the ball up 16.3 times. Once again, however, the Warriors gave up most of those turnovers (21) in game they won. Remember that awful 4th quarter after they led 93-66 before the bench gave up 41 points? Yup, it's starting to look like most of Memphis' advantages for the series happened during that 12 minute span. As a matter of fact, Memphis has only outscored the Warriors in four of the twelve quarters played.

The Warriors stole the ball from Memphis 11 times per game, while Memphis picked the Dubs' pockets 9.7 times. Surely the big, bad Grizzlies blocked more of the Warriors' shots though. Nope, not even close. Golden State blocked twice as many shots, averaging 7.7 against them while only being blocked 3.3 times a night.

Memphis did manage to get to the line once per game more than Golden State, but that wasn't enough to compensate for the difference in shooting. The Warriors sank 12.7 threes against the former expansion team from Vancouver, while the Grizzlies responded with merely five shots made from behind the arc per game. The Grizzlies only shot 44% from the floor against the Warriors, who responded by shooting 45% (raw fg%). After factoring in the Warriors' dominance from deep, the end results were an average score of 105.3 - 98.7, Warriors.

Memphis won the game when they controlled the pace. Their lone win showed a pace of 92.7. The two games that the Warriors won paced out at 98.1 and 100.1, which points to the need for the Warriors to keep scoring quickly and putting up lots of threes to force Memphis to try to keep up. The Warriors certainly have players capable of putting up points in a hurry, and I think the Warriors will try to come out playing aggressively on offense. The quicker they can put points on the board, the more they can force Memphis out of the Grizzlies' season long gameplan.

Unless Joerger shows a new found willingness to adapt, I expect that Memphis will try to control the paint and bully the Warriors inside. With Conley out indefinitely while recovering from surgery, I can't see Memphis deviating from their season-long strategy. I think the Dubs have the personnel to respond, especially now that Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights, and David Lee are all healthy to supplement the starting bigs if the game does turn into a grit and grind affair.