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Warriors get whooped, tricked in blowout loss to Memphis

Ouch.

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Five Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In the history of the NBA playoffs, no team has ever lost a playoff game by 40 points and gone on to win the NBA title. But thanks to some garbage time heroics by their reserves, the Golden State Warriors managed to lose by only 39 points to the Memphis Grizzlies, 134-95. (The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks also lost by 39 points in the second round last season)

That’s about the only silver lining from the Grizzlies absolute decimation of the Warriors, a stretch that included runs of 14-0, 28-4, and 62-18 for Memphis.

The game was close for almost an entire quarter before Memphis finished the first on a 9-0 run, led by the outside shooting and defense of DeAnthony Melton. They shot 7-12 from distance in the first, with Jaren Jackson Jr. scoring ten points. Then they went on a 9-0 run early in the second where they got all their points in the lane or at the line, and Brandon Clarke grabbed four offensive rebounds in three minutes. Sacramento Kings coach-for-now Mike Brown finally called timeout with the Dubs down 53-36. Let’s hope he already signed his contract lest the team have second thoughts after watching this performance.

Brown put in a starters + Kevon Looney lineup to stop the bleeding, and it worked briefly, as Steph Curry put up four quick points and Andrew Wiggins hit a three. Jordan Poole came in for Klay Thompson and hit a three, and it looked like the Warriors were crawling back, cutting the lead to 11. Then things really fell apart.

The Warriors turned the ball over on four straight possessions and Memphis got fast break buckets off the first two. Leading by 16, Memphis got a four-point play when Steven Adams scored through a Wiggins foul, missed the free throw, and Jackson grabbed the offensive board and hit Melton for a layup. Then Melton blocked Poole and Curry stepped out of bounds, and the Warriors shot three straight three balls. Adams tipped in a miss on the Grizzlies’ 7th offensive rebound of the quarter and Desmond Bane got a three-point play to complete the 14-0 run.

The Warriors were so rattled, Curry even missed a free throw. At the half they were down 77-50, after scoring four points in the final 5:13 of the second quarter, all by Curry, despite having Curry and either Poole or Thompson with him the whole time.

It didn’t get better with Nemanja Bjelica in during the second half, a lineup I’m calling the NDA Frontcourt, because talking about it again should be legally prohibited. Memphis scored the first eight points of the half and stretched the lead to 35, before Bjeli’s first three of the series cut it to 30. How did Memphis respond? With an 18-1 run that made it 103-55 with 5:33 to go in the quarter. The Warriors pulled their starters with a quarter and a half to go, and the lead got as big as 55 points after Ziaire Williams made a four-point play at the end of the quarter.

Seven Grizzlies scored in double figures, and two others had nine points. Bane and Jackson each had 21 points in 24 minutes, hit four three-pointers each, and were +46 and +42 respectively.

Jackson dominated, and the Warriors simply had no answer for the lineup that had JJJ at power forward alongside Adams. To be clear, they also had no answers for all the other Memphis lineups, except when they were playing Jarrett Culver, Xavier Tillman, and John Konchar the entire fourth. The Warriors were so desperate that they unfroze the carbonite encasing Bjelica and started him in the third quarter, which somehow did not make them faster.

Tyus Jones continued to torment the Warriors on offense with 21 points on 12 shots, plus nine assists, and Melton continued to torment them on defense with two steals and a block. Clarke was a terror in the offensive glass, especially in the second quarter. The rebounding battle went to Memphis in a big way, 55-37, reversing the series-long trend. Dillon Brooks played frantic defense himself before a leg injury took him out at the end of the third quarter.

Before the game, Curry said the plan was to Whoop That Trick, and then went out and played a very passive game for a supposed trick-whooper. Curry had 15 points and four assists, and didn’t take a shot until nearly nine minutes into the game. He hit his first two attempts from three-point range, but the team seemed content to let Thompson fire away early. For the first part of the game, Klay was responsible for most of the scoring on both sides, scoring 17 first half points while getting abused by Jackson, running away from three-point shooters for no reason, and getting baffled by basic plays like a give-and-go. Once again, his Dirk Nowitzki baseline jumper wasn’t falling and he finished with a plus/minus of -45.

What was really the cause of the collapse? It was one of the NBA’s churchiest players evoking a song by Three Six Mafia, named after the number of the beast. For his Game Six promo, maybe he should try some DC Talk lyrics instead. On the scale of embarrassing Steph Curry moments, this falls behind the release of the Curry Twos and derailing this year’s All Star Weekend with his horny dating game show, but it’s more embarrassing than the Hamilton cap or the story about Ayesha sending him feet pics.

Draymond Green turned the ball over five times as Memphis completely ignored him as a shooter. Some teams will leave a non-shooter open at the three-point line. Adams was refusing to close out on Draymond at the free throw line, and the Warriors never made the Grizzlies pay for overplaying the pass. But it’s not fair to single out Green when the entire team looked slow on both ends, especially as he’s mourning the death of his close friend.

Otto Porter Jr. left with a foot injury, but went scoreless in his 12 minutes, missing all three of his triples. But he was the only Warriors player who didn’t have a turnover - they had 22 overall. Poole had more turnovers (4) than points (3), looking absolutely shook by the Grizzlies’ ball pressure and barely able to shoot. Wiggins had five points and a rebound, but by only turning the ball over once, he qualifies as the Warriors’ second-best starter.

As for the bench, Damion Lee and Moses Moody each had ten points and hit two three-pointers. Moody and the mothballed Juan Toscano-Anderson were the only Warriors with a positive plus/minus and are not coincidentally two of the best athletes on the team. Kuminga got to re-enter the game thanks to extended garbage time and finished with 17.

What are some good things we can take away from this nightmare of a game?

  • Memphis has delicious barbecue, so hopefully the Warriors got to enjoy some delicious food on their trip. They certainly played like they were trying to digest a large ribs-and-brisket-heavy lunch.
  • It’s extremely unlikely for a coach to blow multiple 3-1 leads in different playoff series if his name isn’t Glenn Rivers.
  • Moody looked good in his garbage time minutes and gives Kerr or Brown another option for the team’s precarious perimeter defense. If nothing else, he has a better chance to match the Grizzlies’ athleticism.
  • The Warriors can’t possibly start Kuminga a third straight game. Right? Right guys? It was a weird choice to deploy Kuminga in Game 4 with Ja Morant out and Adams starting, and it was even weirder to do it a second time, especially after pulling him for good after five minutes in Game 4. Kuminga is the youngest player to start a playoff game in over 50 years, and you know, maybe there’s a good reason teams don’t normally start teenagers.
  • Crazy idea: Facing two giant big men to start the game, perhaps the Warriors could consider starting their biggest man, Kevon Looney, who started 80 out of 82 games in the regular season. I’ve said it before, but my nickname for the Games 4-5 fivesome is the “Slap In The Face To Kevon Looney” lineup.
  • Kenny Atkinson could be hired as Lakers head coach, meaning he would outrank Brown and take over head coaching responsibilities if Kerr can’t go in Game Six. That’s how it works, right? The assistant coach who’s going to coach the team with the better record the previous season is the boss.
  • Taylor Jenkins didn’t push any conspiracies about officiating or injuries after the game.
  • I watched this game from Doha, Qatar, where the international TNT feed featured announcers speaking French, a language I do not understand. But when Curry sank his first shots, the play-by-play guy yelled “Bang bang bang!” as the color guy went “Non non non!” and then they both guffawed like it was a cartoon. Also, based solely on this broadcast, I believe French people LOVE Kyle Anderson, but the broadcasters did not call him “Au Relenti.”
  • The upside is that I will get to watch one more Warriors playoff game before disappearing into Nepal for two weeks (thanks for reading along this year, GSOM-ers), but the downside is that the game will be on at 5 am local time.