The Golden State Warriors recorded their first loss of the 2021-22 season on Tuesday, falling 104-101 in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis eliminated the Warriors last season in the Play-In Tournament on Golden State’s home court. Less than six months later, the Dubs got their first chance at avenging that defeat. Unfortunately, while it looked like things were heading in that direction early, some bad habits returned and opened the door for a Grizzlies comeback.
Pre-analysis caveat: There’s no reason to panic about the Golden State Warriors
Let’s be clear, even after their loss on Tuesday, the Warriors are still 4-1. The Grizzlies are a talented young team that locked in defensively and capitalized on Golden State’s mistakes. There’s no reason for Warriors fans to enter crisis mode. Still, there’s reason to be frustrated.
The Warriors are a good team trying to prove they are in the top-tier in the Western Conference. The gaps between a good and great team are thin, and often that disparity is defined by self-inflicted mistakes. Golden State has already pulled out multiple victories this season when their opponents performed well enough to win. On Tuesday, Memphis turned the tables on them.
The Warriors dominated early, particularly in transition
Golden State finished the game with 19 points in transition (Memphis led the league last season with just 17.1 fastbreak points per game), but most of those buckets came in the first half. The Grizzlies defensive gameplan focused on limiting the Warriors three-point shooting. While it would ultimately be successful, the Warriors took advantage of that hyper-focus early by outrunning their defenders downcourt for some lightly contested dunks and layups.
Surrendering easy baskets, the Grizzlies defenders overcorrected once again and started leaving enough room on the perimeter for Golden State to strike. Otto Porter Jr. made two threes late in the first quarter, and at the end of one, the Warriors led 37-20. They were totally in control. Soon after, though, Memphis found their rhythm defensively. The Warriors never found an answer.
The good and bad from Jordan Poole
Despite Jordan Poole’s offensive struggles this season, the second unit has performed well, bailing the Warriors out of multiple fourth-quarter leads. On Tuesday, though, Poole and the second unit had their ugliest stretch yet.
Grizzlies starters Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane started knocking in jump shots to start the second quarter and quickly put together a 13-4 run. Poole’s aggressiveness got out of control, and the Warriors offense ground to a halt. Head coach Steve Kerr responded by bringing Stephen Curry back with more than seven minutes left in the half.
Poole finished the game 4-for-9 from the field but failed to make a three for the second consecutive game. However, worse than his limited impact as a scorer, he finished the game with six turnovers.
While this game was far from the best example, Poole is a better ball handler and passer even than he was last season. He still has a long way to go. Poole has improved at making the right decision with the play in front of him. When he’s in the open floor, the former first-round pick is good at finding open teammates. Even on Tuesday, he made a great pass to Andre Igoudala for an easy dunk.
Where the Michigan alum continues to struggle is when the play gets behind him. Poole has good vision, not court awareness. In other words, he’s fairly good at executing passes when he sees an open teammate but struggles when that player is not in his direct line of sight. Given how effective Poole is at beating defenders off the dribble, defenses are more aggressive helping, particularly from behind, because they don’t trust Poole to react in time to find the open shooter.
Poole rekindling his jump shot would be more impactful than anything for him right now, but if he is going to become more than a microwave bench-scorer, he will need to get a better sense of the court around him.
Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers
Poole was the most egregious turnover machine on Thursday, committing six in less than 24 minutes of action, but he was far from the only culprit. Curry and Draymond Green committed five turnovers and gave an already struggling offense fewer opportunities to find success offensively.
In some ways, the Warriors early success in transition seemed to spark a false sense of security pushing the ball downcourt. Memphis made adjustments to prevent Golden State from generating easy baskets in transition, but the Warriors kept trying to make it happen and forced long passes into tight windows.
Of course, those were just a few of the Dubs 23 turnovers. The defensive intensity from both sides was high (Memphis committed 17 turnovers), but Golden State made an unacceptable number of unforced errors. None more inexcusable than Green’s eight-second violation with 1:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The extremes of Draymond Green
Besides his turnover woes, Green abandoned looking for his shot. He had seemed to make a point of attacking the basket this season, but questions remained if that would continue. It was absent against the Grizzlies, where Green attempted five field goals and never got to the free-throw line.
Green’s tentativeness is not without reason given his well-documented decline as a scorer, but starting alongside Kevon Looney and closing with Andre Iguodala, a substantial portion of Green’s minutes are coming with another non-scoring threat on the floor. With Poole struggling to fill the second-scorer role, the Warriors lineups are struggling to create offensively. Green will not be efficient, but with Memphis locked in defensively, it might have helped things open up if he gave them a different look on a few possessions throughout the game.
No matter how frustrated fans might be with Green’s offensive game, though, he was dominant defensively on Tuesday. He finished the game with three steals and five blocks, but even that exceptional statline undersells how impressive he was. Green was all over the court in the fourth quarter and overtime and was a huge reason the Warriors stagnant offense still had multiple shots to win.
Is Damion Lee the Warriors best bench player?
While it did not lead to a victory, Damion Lee hit another huge late-game three that helped push the game to overtime.
Lee recorded 14 points and six rebounds in a season-high 33 minutes and has been the most consistent Warrior this season. Kerr has played Lee more than any other reserve on the roster, including Iguodala. The preseason bench talk centered on Porter, Iguodala, and Nemanja Bjelica, but Lee has been the best bench player and arguably the third-best player on the Warriors this season.
Watch Steph Curry make himself laugh
OH MY GOODNESS STEPH HOW ⁉️ pic.twitter.com/uCcaotCI4m— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 29, 2021
GSoM News: Postgame Twitch Streams
You might have caught wind of this on social media yesterday, but we are trying something new here at Golden State of Mind to connect with Dubs Nation. I’m going to be doing postgame Twitch streams following every Warriors game this season to chat with fans about the latest happenings in Warriorland.
Feel free to check them out going forward if you want to be a part of the conversation. Also, you can give me a follow on Twitch (@maddelucchi) if you would like to get notifications when I go live.
You are welcome to rewatch last night’s recording here (starts at the 5:55 minute mark in the embedded video below):