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Analysis: Durant, Curry shine as the Warriors earn road win over the Grizzlies, 118-103

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The two former MVPs combine to score 56 points while Cook and Livingston provide support off the bench as the Warriors start this two-game road trip off with a victory in Memphis.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After a three-game homestand that featured good wins over the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons (and a head-scratching blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks), the Warriors began a quick two-game road against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Though the Grizzlies held the lead after one quarter and this looked like another winnable game the Warriors would let slip through their fingers, the team refocused and controlled the rest of the game. Behind a great final nine minutes of the game, the Warriors picked up the 118-103 victory, their 51st victory of the 2018-19 season.

Another Durant performance that can’t be put in one box

Kevin Durant’s efficiency was on full display against the Grizzlies. Durant attempted 13 shots on Wednesday night, making 12 of those shots. Wednesday night’s game was the best shooting performance of Durant’s illustrious career. After the game, Durant commented on this extremely efficient performance and the importance of efficiency in his game:

Durant made major contributions when the Warriors needed them the most, specifically in the fourth quarter. After Chandler Parsons hit a free throw to give the Grizzlies a one-point lead with nine minutes to go in the game, the Warriors outscored the Grizzlies 27-11 to secure the double-digit victory.

Durant scored 12 points during that closing stretch, including this jumper over Bruno Caboclo to give the Warriors an eight-point advantage with seven minutes left to go in the game.

But Durant’s contributions went well beyond scoring. This was another Durant game that makes it difficult to box him in as just a scorer as he helped his team in ways that went beyond just putting the ball in the basket.

Durant tallied 5 of the Warriors’ 30 assists in Wednesday night’s game, the final one coming as he found Stephen Curry for a three-pointer (set up by a nice screen by Draymond Green).

Just like he did in recent wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Pistons, Durant’s court vision and ability to set his teammates up for baskets played a major role in his team picking up a win. Even if he isn’t attempting as many shots (this season, he’s been averaging around 18 field-goal attempts per game), he’s still having a positive impact on the game (something that showed up in his plus/minus of +30 against the Grizzlies).

One sees this even when Durant doesn’t earn an assist, like on this play in which he sets DeMarcus Cousins up for the layup.

Durant spots the mismatch, that Cousins is being guarded by the much smaller Parsons, and gets the ball to him so that he can take advantage of it.

To go with his 28 point and 5 assists, Durant also grabbed 9 rebounds and had 2 steals in the win over the Grizzlies, giving his team a complete, well-rounded, and efficient game.

Curry BBQs Memphis from long distance

Durant wasn’t the only former MVP who played well for the Warriors on Wednesday night. Curry also had a strong game against the Grizzlies, revisiting the location where he made this miraculous shot in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals.

Sorry, I’ll take any excuse to watch and share that shot.

Curry finished Wednesday night’s win with 28 points, tying Durant for the game-high in scoring. 11 of Curry’s points came in the first quarter, as the Warriors fought through that sloppy start (six first-quarter turnovers) and prevented the game from getting too far away from them early as they trailed by just six points after the first 12 minutes of action.

In that first quarter, Curry went 3/6 from long distance, including this three-pointer that gave the Warriors a brief five-point lead in the opening frame.

Over the entire game, Curry went 6/12 from three-point range, making just one shot from inside the three-point arc.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
Though he struggled from inside the three-point arc, Stephen Curry was locked in from long distance in the Warriors’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to those 28 points, Curry finished the win over the Grizzlies with 7 assists and a season-high 10 rebounds, finishing just 3 assists short of a triple-double. It was Curry’s third double-double of the 2018-19 season.

During that closing stretch when the Warriors turned a one-point deficit into a 15-point advantage, Curry didn’t make a single field goal, but he had two of his seven assists, including this one that set up a Cousins jumper that pushed the Warriors lead to 10 points.

Curry’s gravity draws in three Grizzlies defenders, leaving Cousins open for the jump shot. Even when Curry is struggling or isn’t as efficient as he would like to be (which was the case for parts of Wednesday night’s game), his presence still commands such attention that it provides his teammates with easier and more open looks.

Cook and Livingston provide bench production

While the Warriors getting major contributions from Durant and Curry is part of the plan, it’s not usually expected to get big things out of Quinn Cook . But against the Grizzlies, Cook came up with some important baskets.

Cook scored 9 points on Wednesday night, but all of those points came in the second quarter. Cook’s play in that second quarter got the Warriors back on track, as they outscored the Grizzlies by 12 points to go into halftime with a 6-point lead.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
All nine of Quinn Cook’s points came in the second quarter as he helped the Warriors climb out of an early hole and get the road win.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

While Cook was key in that second quarter run that allowed the Warriors to gain control of the game, Shaun Livingston saved his buckets for the fourth quarter as the Warriors sealed the win. Livingston scored 6 of his 8 points in that fourth quarter with two of those points coming on this classic Livingston turnaround jump shot.

Even with Tyler Dorsey hounding him on defense, Livingston still gets his shot off and pushes the Warriors lead to six points.

In the playoffs, the Warriors will need Cook and Livingston to give them... something so that they can give Curry the occasional bit of rest. Though they’ve had moments this season when it has looked like they wouldn’t be able to do that, Cook and Livingston have been playing better of late. Wednesday’s game is more evidence that they’re starting to get into a good rhythm with the playoffs just around the corner.

The Warriors continue their two-game road jaunt on Friday, traveling to the Twin Cities to visit the Timberwolves.