It's pretty easy to kick a team when they're down, specially when you are firing shots through Twitter. But if you're New York Knicks team President Phil Jackson, you don't have much else to do in between tee times at this point of the Knicks season, and have to take to Twitter to trash teams who are still in the running for the Larry O'Brien trophy.
NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs...seriously, how's it going?— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) May 10, 2015
Have you ever sat down with a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning and accidentally mixed in salt instead of sugar? Well neither have I, but I would imagine that culinary clash of salty bitterness must be how Phil Jackson feels watching the coach he tried so hard to sign last off season etch his name in the NBA record books game after game.
The Zen Master, like many other basketball purists still hold on tightly to the old adage of "live by the three, die by the three." For many Warriors teams of yesteryear this was generally the case. But where the Warriors break the mold of the quintessential team that lives and dies by the three point shot is their ability to control the game on the defensive end by turning stops into points in a matter of seconds.
Unless the Warriors come out of the gate at a scintillating pace (shoutout to my boy Fitz), it is usually the Dubs work on the defensive side of the ball that leads to stops and/or steals that fuel the Warriors offensive firepower. In this day of age where people rely so heavily on analytics, efficiency is being recognized as an important factor that can be correlated to a teams success. The Warriors are efficient (insert pointless stat that backs up argument here) to the simple point that you should try to make the most out of every possession. Thanks to my six years of college, I have come to the conclusion that three is more than two, voila! Efficiency. If it were only that simple -- The three-point shot itself may not be the most efficient shot percentage wise, well unless you have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and a slew of other capable three-point shooters who also just happen to be coached by the most efficient three-point shooter of all time.
Basically the round about point that I am trying to make is that the Warriors should not be viewed simply as a three-point shooting team, as that completely ignores what they do best, (yeah, I said it), and thats play defense. When will the offense obsessive media stop labeling the Warriors as a "live by the 3" type of team and link them to a hard nosed "defense wins championships" type of squad. That question was rhetorical, and the answer really doesn't matter. Why ask a question that not only doesn't have an answer, but one that wouldn't matter anyways? Because it's my article dammit. Case in point, this Warriors team needs to stop being ridiculed for an off shooting night (talking to you Phil) and should be praised for their effort and attention to detail on the defensive end on a nightly basis. The ability to shoot and (more often times than not) rely on the three-point shot doesn't define this team, rather it transcends them into a level of greatness that when paired with their defensive toughness has never been seen in this league before.
Now that I got that out of the way, how about we take a look at how the Warriors slapped around the Grizzlies in game 5. Well, slapping may be a word that can be better used in a Floyd Mayweather police report, but that is neither here or there. The Warriors flexed their muscles in game 5 after getting off to a shaky start in the first quarter.
Memphis jumped out to an early 17-7 lead behind workhorse Zack Randolph ruthlessly attacking the offensive glass. The Warriors were down 10 with 1:57 remaining in the first period before they went on a classic "bathroom" run. What is a bathroom run you ask? It's the type of run only the Golden State Warriors can put on in the sense that you get up and go to the bathroom with your team down 10, and when you get back two minutes later, they somehow have the lead with the crowd going nuts, making you have to reconsider your weak bladder.
But thats just what the Warriors did. Steph Curry hit four of his six 3-pointers in the first quarter, the last of which Curry put right between Beno Uldrih's eyeballs after a couple of quick between the leg dribbles as the first quarter came to a close. With two seconds left in the quarter, the Grizzlies 10 point lead (along with any sort of momentum) had vanished in a matter of seconds to the deafening (and organic let me mind you) roar of Oracle.
Watch Chef Curry cook up some Grizzly stew
While defensive stops fueled the Warriors late in the first quarter, it was Harrison Barnes who carried the load offensively early on when the Warriors struggled to find their rhythm. The Black Falcon finished with 14 points and 5 turnovers, but showed up ready to play from the jump. If it wasn't for Barnes early offense, the Warriors may of found themselves in a much larger hole early on.
The Warriors used the momentum from their 16-2 run that closed out the first quarter to clamp down on the Grizzlies defensively, holding Memphis to 32 combined points in quarters 2 and 3. As one of the highest paint scoring teams in the NBA, the Dubs held the Grizz under 40% shooting in the paint for the second consecutive game, the first two times the Grizzlies shot under 40% in the paint all season long. Memphis head coach David Joerger said the Grizzlies would need to score 100 points in this series to win a game, and that clearly was not going to happen in game 5.
Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green both turned in gritty defensive efforts, including four blocks from Bogut and a career playoff high nine assists from Green. Steph Curry also became the first player in NBA history to have six steals and six 3-pointers in the same game (Psh.. I've done that in NBA 2k at least 30 times before).
Many has been some talk of Klay Thompson not showing up in the playoffs and many have been itching for him to break free of the shackles Toney Allen has placed on him. Well Allen didn't play in game 5 and Klay took full advantage. After missing his first four shots early, one could tell he was trying not to force up another quick shot. He moved the ball on offense, made the extra pass that found open teammates and eventually waited for the ball to find him. Thompson finished with 21 points, five dimes and four rebounds, including a fourth quarter dagger in the form of an and-one three. As I've been saying all season long, when Klay's shot isn't falling, he finds other ways to stay on the floor through his persistent defensive pressure. Thompson played a team high 39 minutes in game 5.
Once the Dubs extended their lead to over 20 points, they kept it there (yes even the 3rd team) in route to their largest margin of victory in the second round. Memphis scored 168 combined points in the last two games, the lowest two game total all season long. As the series rolls on, it is still very intriguing to watch how head coach Steve Kerr fine tunes his rotation. As most of us know, the rotation generally shrinks in the playoffs, which is even true for the NBA's deepest team. I have been personally surprised that Festus Ezeli has not seen more time in this series, my only guess is his ability to get in early foul trouble.
David Lee on the other hand played a very solid 17 minutes in which he recorded six points and seven boards in addition to an enhanced defensive effort that Lee is not traditionally known for. If DLee can develop some sort of chip on his shoulder to play with in his limited role, he has the ability to change the outcome of a game coming of the bench. I have been rather out spoken this season about Lee not being a factor on this team. Although he still shoots the elbow jumper that was so money two years ago, I honestly don't remember the last time he made one and we all know the troubles he has guarding his position. But this is the playoffs and DLee should have something to prove, not to me or any other nay sayers, but to himself and this coaching staff. When Lee plays with the effort and intensity on both ends of the court like he did tonight, his play will most certainly have an impact on the Warriors chances of winning a title. Also, David Lee's locker room presence and professionalism should be noted as a vital part to this teams development, growth and overall success.
Sean Livingston also saw good minutes off the bench by being extremely active on the defensive end (+21 efficiency in just 22 minutes). The ever consistent energy of Andre Iguodala was also on full display in game 5, as Iggy scored 16 points off the bench in just 25 minutes (+23 efficiency).
The Warriors have only allowed 100 points or more only one time this post season. Turnovers have been hurting Golden State as of late, as they turned the ball over 16 times in game 5. Adjustments will need to be made to tie up any loose ends, but you have to like the Warriors chances heading to Memphis for game 6 (Friday, 6:30 PST on ESPN) with momentum on their side.