The frustration was evident on Eric Paschall’s face all night long. Having fouled out for the first time in his young career, he resigned himself to watching the final two minutes of the game on the bench, with a long and neutral expression on his face but with a palpable sense of resentment at what seemed like a series of unfair whistles given to him by the officials.
Eventually, that expressionless face turned into a smile. How could he not? After all, the Golden State Warriors had finally broken a seven-game losing streak, winning against the Memphis Grizzlies by a lopsided score of 114-95. They had garnered their third win of the season in their 15th game. There were plenty of reasons to smile, to let loose a deep sigh of relief. After multiple setbacks for what seemed like eternity, the Warriors deserved to be allowed this moment of respite.
This ragtag band of rookies, role-players, and once-promising prospects — forced to become a working unit after a series of unfortunate injuries threw the team into disarray and chaos — managed to give all of us a glimpse of what they are capable of when each and every part is running seamlessly, resulting in a well-oiled machine not unsimilar to the dynasty of years past.
Such machinery churned out anomalous stats against the Grizzlies. The worst defensive team in the league in terms of efficiency going into last night’s game, the Warriors managed to clamp down on their opponents, forcing them to shoot poorly as evidenced by the Grizzlies’ final shooting splits of .409/.360/.737. The Grizzlies, not known for their outside shooting, predictably struggled on that end, and thus were forced to rely on forays into the paint and getting to the line to live on offense.
The Warriors still managed to give up 52 points in the paint to the Grizzlies despite dedicating themselves to a zone defense that, in theory, should not have made such a statistic possible. But with that bad comes a notable good: The Warriors managed to block 10 shots, which is far more than their season average of 4.2 per game. For once, they made an opposing team bleed profusely for their points, which amounted to an exceptional defensive rating of 96.9 by the end of the night.
But such a victory was obtained through having success on both ends of the floor — and on offense, the Warriors were getting contributions from multiple parties. While Paschall was riddled with foul trouble, he still managed to score 17 points, albeit on 15 shots. His most notable series of highlights in the game came on a personal eight-point scoring run that effectively put away the Grizzlies’ chances of cutting the deficit to a concerning level.
With their go-to rookie scorer struggling to find a consistent offensive rhythm, the Warriors turned to their best healthy scorer remaining: Alec Burks. The veteran put up 29 points on an efficient 9-of-15 clip from the field (2-of-5 from three-point range). With no tangible superstar-level player present to be an otherworldly scoring threat, the Warriors have come to rely on Burks to create shots whenever the offense breaks down.
Behind Burks was an unlikely supporting scorer: Glenn Robinson III, who put up 20 points on an equally-efficient 8-of-14 clip from the field (3-of-6 from beyond the arc). Robinson was brought in with the expectation that he would be a serviceable wing player who could replicate the skills of departed wing players such as Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant, albeit on a severely lower plane of skill. Robinson hasn’t been a beacon of consistent play, but this performance against the Grizzlies provided a glimmer of hope that he can maintain some semblance of consistency going forward.
Right behind Burks and Robinson came another unlikely contributor to the Warriors’ success on the offensive end. Marquese Chriss came into the season with an unexpected level of hype and anticipation from Warriors fans, no doubt buoyed by his decent to good performances during the preseason that perhaps signified that the 8th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft had turned over a new leaf. His appearances in games that have mattered have been a bevy of ups-and-downs (downs being the more prevalent outcome). But against the Grizzlies, he scored 17 points on a 7-of-11 shooting clip, doing his damage entirely in the paint. Like Robinson, his problem has been consistency — and one can only hope that this showing will be the genesis of a new streak of plus performances from the reclamation project.
Not to be ignored is the Warriors’ remaining healthy superstar, the de facto leader of the team without Curry and Thompson: Draymond Green. It’s important to note that during his first seven seasons in the NBA, Green has never finished a season with a losing record, nor has he missed the playoffs. He is well on-track to experiencing his first sub-.500 record with the Warriors, and it is safe to say that for the first time in his career, he will be staying home while 16 other teams play April-June basketball.
You can’t blame Green for trying to adjust to a new situation — after all, he is just human, and a highly-emotional and passionate human at that. You can’t knock him for a lack of trying in terms of being a teacher toward his young teammates, someone who can lead through example and through words. He struggled out of the gate in trying to lead, with a finger ligament injury not helping him in that manner. But against the Grizzlies, Green showed signs that he might be turning a corner and is finally settling into his own groove, both as the Warriors’ leader and as a significant contributor on the floor.
He put up a near triple-double of 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists, and led the team with his plus/minus of plus-19 in nearly 35 minutes on the floor. His performance was vintage Draymond, a two-way savant who made the Grizzlies’ lives on offense a living hell, as well as acting as the Warriors’ primary playmaker, directing players where to go and making great reads and passes.
Green provided an injury scare when he landed on his elbow late in the third quarter.
Video of Draymond Green’s injury. Looks like Ky Bowman fell on his elbow after they contested a layup. Brutal stretch for Golden State continues pic.twitter.com/NCps39fUP8— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) November 20, 2019
But he would return in the fourth quarter and would finish the game out, with his elbow injury being described as nothing overly serious.
“Nothing too major ... a bruise,” Green said of his injury. “It just felt like a bruise-y pain so I know I would play through it.”
“I was mad, because it seems like that’s the type of things that are happening right now,” Chriss said when asked how he responded to Green’s injury in the third. “But Draymond’s a soldier, he fights through things. He wants to play, he wants to be out there, and thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”
With a possible long-term injury to Green being ruled out, the Warriors head to Dallas for the second game of their back-to-back slate. They will get a shot at trying to knock over the Mavericks’ youthful star duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, which will prove to be a much tougher task as compared to their victory over the Grizzlies. As was mentioned above, consistency is the key, and those who played a big part in last night’s win — Burks, Robinson, Chriss, and especially Green — will have to continue where they left off in order to pull off a second straight surprise win over a team that is widely favored to be victorious over them.
Fifteen down, 67 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.