After their thrilling win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, the Warriors returned to Oracle Arena for a Monday night matchup against the Southwest Division-leading Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies would be short-handed for this game as Mike Conley was inactive, missing the game with a left hamstring injury. A Conley-less Grizzlies team still presented a challenge for the Warriors. The Grizzlies still boast a top-tier defense capable of causing problems for the Warriors’ offensive attack.
But it was the Warriors who played the dominating defense on Monday night, holding the Grizzlies to 38 first-half points on their way to a 110-93 blowout victory.
Supporting cast takes center stage
After relying heavily on their stars in the win over the Kings, the Warriors’ supporting cast stepped up and played a large role in the team defeating the Grizzlies. Jonas Jerebko stole the show on Monday night, scoring 16 points and going 4/7 from long distance.
Most importantly Jerebko went 3/3 from three-point range in the first half, a stretch when the Warriors struggled from long distance (the non-Jerebko Warriors went 3/13 from three-point range in the first half) and needed anyone to make a shot.
One of those three-pointers for Jerebko was this one, which came in the final seconds of the first quarter.
Jerebko talked a bit about his three-point shooting after the game, as reported by Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News:
“We have some of the best shooters in the world on this team,” Jerebko said. “I credit all the work I put in the summers and putting in the time to try to become a shooter. I feel like you can always keep working. So I will. I feel comfortable shooting the 3.”
But it wasn’t just Jerebko who got hot from long distance against the Grizzlies. Andre Iguodala returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games and scored 10 points in the victory. It was Iguodala’s second consecutive game scoring 10+ points. It looked like Playoffs Iguodala was on the court Monday night, as he went 3/3 from three-point range.
It wasn’t all good news for the Warriors’ supporting cast. Monday night was a definitely one to forget for Jordan Bell. Going up for a dunk in the first quarter, Bell was blocked... by the rim.
Between this play and some missed point-blank layups, it seemed liked nothing could go right for the second-year big man from Oregon. But Bell did his best to make everyone forget about those slip-ups with this play with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter.
Even with his struggles, Bell scored four points against the Grizzlies as did Alfonzo McKinnie. Meanwhile, Kevon Looney scored seven points on Monday night, five of which came in the first quarter as the Warriors’ offense struggled to get into a rhythm.
When the Warriors are able to get that kind of production from those players, with players like Jerebko and Iguodala supplementing their All-Stars, they are very difficult for even the greatest of teams to beat.
A night of history for three Warriors stars
This game against the Grizzlies saw three of the Warriors’ All-Star players move past some significant career milestones.
Stephen Curry scored his 15,000th point on Monday night on this three-pointer in transition roughly midway through the second quarter.
Curry became the fifth Warriors player to reach that level, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Paul Arizin, and Chris Mullin.
Curry scored 20 points against the Grizzlies, going from 3/9 from three-point range. With his three-point attempts not falling like they normally do, Curry made a point of attacking the basket and scoring at the rim.
It was a night of history for Kevin Durant as well. Durant passed Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list on Monday night. After the game, Durant reflected on Bird’s career, his game, and what it means to move past him on the all-time scoring list.
Kevin Durant pumped to pass Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list, reflects a little on Bird’s game pic.twitter.com/29RTP6mV7A— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 18, 2018
Durant scored 23 points against the Grizzlies, leading all scorers. Two of Durant’s points came on this rim-rocking dunk in the third.
It was still a somewhat pedestrian point total for him, but Durant more than made up for it other aspects of the game. Durant ended Monday night’s game with 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks, again displaying his ability to help his team beyond scoring.
Klay Thompson made a little history of his own, as his 16 points against the Grizzlies put him over the 11,000 point threshold.
Thompson, along with the Warriors’ other stars, struggled from long distance. But Thompson managed to knock down this three-pointer in the fourth quarter that was the final nail in the coffin for the visiting Grizzlies.
But even though their attempts from long distance (save for those made by Jerebko and Iguodala) weren’t falling, the Warriors still found ways to keep things going. The team shot 27 free throws on Monday night, making 24 of them. The Warriors were also very careful with the basketball, turning it over just 10 times against a team that normally forced their opponents into nearly 16 turnovers per game.
The Warriors looked more like the “Grit and Grind” team on Monday night, finding ways to generate offense when their shots weren’t falling and blowing out a team when they didn’t play particularly well.
Dubs defense cages the Grizzlies
To be certain, the Grizzlies being without Conley made them a much easier team to defend. But with that said, it was still a strong defensive performance from the Warriors, who put the clamps on the short-handed Grizzlies. The Warriors kept Marc Gasol in check, as he scored just 15 points on Monday night while holding rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. to just three points and 1/6 shooting.
The Warriors also forced the Grizzlies into turnovers, 16 in total which resulted in 27 Warriors points. The Grizzlies are normally a very careful team with the basketball, turning it over around just 12 times per game, the third-lowest in the league this season. But against an engaged Warriors defense, the Grizzlies couldn’t hang onto the ball and that resulted in scoring opportunities for the victorious home team.
The only Grizzlies player to do anything was, appropriately enough, former Warrior Omri Casspi. Casspi scored 20 points against his former team, though most of those points came when the outcome of the game was all-but-decided. Casspi went 2/4 from three-point range on Monday night, taking the outside shots he didn’t take while a member of the Warriors. After the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr (jokingly) commented on this:
It was a nice win against a team currently in the mix for the playoffs, even if they were short-handed. The Warriors will travel to Salt Lake City next for a game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. But now, to wrap things up, one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers from Memphis, the Reverend Al Green.
Looking for a great Christmas gift for the Warriors fan in your life? Might I suggest getting them a copy of my book, Golden Age: The Brilliance of the 2018 Champion Golden State Warriors. It is available from Triumph Books as well as on Amazon.