This second-round series between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies has been one whole script that’s been flipped around.
The fact that the Warriors have dominated the paint against the best interior-scoring team in the league has been well documented. But there’s an additional statistical anomaly to add to a bunch that has turned this series upside down.
The Grizzlies were a dominant rebounding team during the regular season. They led the league in rebounds per game (49.2), offensive rebounds per game (14.1), and offensive rebounding percentage (33.8%). As a result of their offensive rebounding prowess, they also led the league in second-chance points per game (18.7).
Contrast those numbers with the Warriors’ rebounding metrics during the regular season: 45.5 rebounds per game (7th), 9.8 offensive rebounds per game (20th), and a 26.9% offensive rebounding percentage (15th). Their lack of offensive rebounding garnered them few opportunities for second-chance points, reflected in their low ranking within that category (12.6, 18th).
In this particular series — much like the role switch in terms of paint dominance — the rebounding tables have been completely turned. The Warriors have outrebounded the Grizzlies by a total of 196-174. The Grizzlies have a slight edge in offensive rebounding (46-44), but the Warriors have made the most out of their extra opportunities (70-55 advantage in second-chance points).
The players at the forefront of an unusually high-motor effort in crashing the boards have been Otto Porter Jr. and Andrew Wiggins, who have a combined haul of 53 rebounds in 3 games against the Grizzlies — 20 of which are offensive boards.
Wiggins, in particular, is to be commended for his motor and tenacity. It’s been a common sight to see Wiggins track missed Warriors shots and make an effort at trying to grab them, or at the very least, tap them back to a teammate. In Game 4, he had 5 offensive rebounds, almost all of which led to productive extra possessions.
Another key element of Wiggins’ repertoire was his individual defense down the stretch in Game 4. With Ja Morant sidelined with right knee soreness, the Grizzlies were bereft of their best offensive player and star-level shot creator; in his place was Tyus Jones, who isn’t on Morant’s level as a scorer but has been one of the league’s best backup guards this season.
Wiggins drew the Jones assignment due to his effectiveness against quick and shifty perimeter operators. He keyed in on Jones and stuck to him around a screen by using his length and ability to “get skinny” when navigating around one. He trailed close by, stayed close to Jones’ hip, and used his length to contest from behind and force a miss.
On a switch, Wiggins used every bit of his length, coupled with excellent lateral movement, to smother Jones’ isolation drive, easily nullifying his floater.
On another switch, Wiggins closes off Desmond Bane’s space quickly and is able to keep up with his penetration, once again using his length and lateral movement. Wiggins blocks Bane’s shot attempt, leading to a fastbreak layup for Jordan Poole.
In a game wrought with questionable half-court offense, so-so decision making, and terrible offensive process, Wiggins’ effort on the margins kept the Warriors within striking distance of the Grizzlies, who themselves had problems generating a continuous stream of efficient offense without Morant. Wiggins’ 39 minutes on the floor saw the Warriors outscore the Grizzlies by 12 points — a team high.
While Porter has also provided rebounding equity, his contributions as of late have come in the form of his bread-and-butter value on offense: long-range shooting.
Prior to this series, Porter was on a rough shooting stretch. He shot 2-of-13 (15.4%) on threes against the Denver Nuggets; the spacing relief that he was acquired for was glaringly absent. Even if he contributed in other means — defense, rebounding, screening, etc. — it wasn’t enough to make up for his sudden woes beyond the arc.
It was only a matter of time before the law of averages worked its magic on Porter, a career 39.8% three-point shooter — and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. In 4 games against the Grizzlies, Porter is 7-of-13 (53.8%) on threes.
Four of those 7 made threes came in Game 4 alone, 2 of which were vital in keeping the Warriors within striking distance and preventing the Grizzlies from pulling away. As usual, Porter feasted on looks made possible through the pull created by the Warriors’ trio of Poole, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson. Porter maximized his role as a spacer; he drilled shots created through putting the Grizzlies defense in rotation.
In Porter’s 94 total minutes of time on the floor during this series, the Warriors have outscored the Grizzlies by 54 points — a team high. Some of that value has been in the form of rebounding and defending, the marginal aspects of the game that are typically considered yeoman’s work.
But the return of Porter’s distance shooting is a welcome development. It is a potent addition to his ancillary value, especially considering that the Warriors’ main offensive trio hasn’t really had the most consistent shooting series of their careers.
Wiggins and Porter have helped kept the Warriors afloat throughout this series; one more game of motor, hustle, effort, and timely scoring could see them in a showdown for the Western Conference crown.