Here is a link to my Sunday column discussing the Warriors-Grizzlies matchup. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — Grind.
It’s the Memphis Grizzlies’ verb. Grind. Grind it out.
Their style of play? Grit and Grind.
The nickname of their arena, the FedEx Forum? The Grind House.
You play the Grizzlies in the Grind House, you face the grind, you have a grind, your life’s a grind. You better do some grinding yourself or you end up ground chuck, ground into nothing, on the ground.
What is grind basketball?
It is Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol crashing the boards, crashing you. It is Randolph and Gasol grabbing rebounds and, on offense, backing you up — backing you down, backing you in, backing you off. Putting weight and muscle on you. Slowing down the game. Being methodical. Making you slow and methodical — trying to.
Being big and heavy and strong and slow.
The Grizzlies are the exact opposite of the Pelicans, whom the Warriors swept in Round 1. The Pelicans are misnamed. The Pelicans should be called the Butterflies. They waft around the higher elevations. They are elegant. They float. They don’t grind.
But the Grizzlies are properly named. They maul you. They attack you. They are stronger than you. Grizzlies.
Steve Kerr Saturday morning on the Grizzlies being grizzlies: “We know they’re coming hard after us with Randolph and Gasol. They’re a very different team (than New Orleans), totally different matchup. They’re not going to jump out on the high screen-and-roll like Anthony Davis did to try to harass Steph (Curry). They don’t have that kind of personnel. They’ll try to clog the paint and take away our driving lanes.”
Here is Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams on Grizzlies ball: “They have a grind-it-out team. It’s a team that likes physical play, tries to protect the paint but, conversely, they also have offensive players who are post-oriented. Randolph, year after year, is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. He’s one of the best low-post players from the right block. He’s just an accomplished player who’s done this over time, just an extremely talented older veteran.
“In Gasol you have much the same, although Gasol is not only a block player. He can make an 18-foot shot, can put the ball on the floor. For a seven-footer, he’s a marvelous passer. But he, too, is an interior player when he wants to be at the block.
“This team has a different nature than New Orleans. Anthony Davis did not play at the block, or he played at the block very little. He plays block-extended. He floats on the perimeter. He slashes on his drives. He gets tip dunks on offensive rebounds, or lobs if you allow him that.”
Something else about the Grizzlies. They are playoff veterans, grizzled veterans, as it were. Not dazzled beginners like the Pelicans-Butterflies.
The core group of this team — Randolph, Gasol and point guard Mike Conley — eliminated the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs four seasons ago. San Antonio was the No. 1 seed. The Grizzlies were No. 8. The Grizzlies have been in the playoffs every season since. Beat the Clippers and Thunder. Lost to them, too. Been there. Done that. Not in awe of anyone. Including the Warriors who beat the Grizzlies two out of three this season.
Kerr on the Grizzlies’ playoff pedigree: “They’re a team that’s been there. They’re experienced. They’ve been in the playoffs the last several years, conference finals couple of years ago. They’ve been in seven-game series with Oklahoma City. They’ve seen it all.”
Adams on the Grizzlies’ playoff pedigree: “They are a veteran playoff-tested group. They’ve been through this with essentially the same players. They know what they’re doing in the playoffs. They’re a defensive-oriented team.”
That remark about the Grizzlies being defensive oriented was high praise.
I asked Adams another question. It was after Saturday’s practice and we were sitting on folding chairs near the wall and the gym was mostly empty. I talk to Adams whenever I can. He’s an explainer. Every sport needs an explainer. He speaks in concepts and he speaks with love for ball and respect for the opponent and the game.
Does the Grizzlies’ big inside game pose a greater challenge to the Warriors than the Pelicans, or a different challenge?
“Different challenge,” Adams said. “They’re more methodical. If they play their game or we play our game that would be apparent visually in terms of the pace of the game. This team is a really good cutting team. Their bigs are good at getting their cutters going to the rim. This is something we need to be extremely alert to. If you don’t take it away, they will be successful at it. That’s just how it is.
“Rebounding, we have to come up with a good five-man rebounding effort on every play. Rebounding is one of the things they do well.
“Sure, we’ve played against them, but not as intensely as we will now in this series. Everything is magnified. We will see these people every day. Now, we have to get inside the skin of those players. What makes them tick? What are their basic strengths? What do they not do well? How can we take advantage of that?
“Now, you have all these little individual games within the larger game. The games during the regular season come boom boom boom boom. We’re pretty prepared when we play a team like Memphis. They’re pretty prepared for us. But that’s not like the playoffs when you can really sink your teeth into the fabric of what you’re doing.”
And, of course, Adams addressed the Conley Factor. Memphis point guard Mike Conley recently suffered a horrible injury to his face, needed reconstructive surgery. Is swollen and sore. Will wear a mask. No matter what the Grizzlies say about Conley’ condition, the Warriors are preparing for him. They expect to see him at some point. Maybe sooner than anyone thinks.
You don’t know much about Conley? Listen to Adams:
“Conley is one of the best point guards in the league, hands down. Plays both sides of the ball, extremely bright, runs his team well, great in the pick-and-roll. He’s one of these guys who really is a perennial All-Star player who doesn’t get named to the All-Star team. In my book, for a long time, he’s been in the upper echelon of point-guard play without any question.”
OK, you’ve got it. These Grizzlies will be tougher than the Pelicans. Tougher and better. More used to postseason stress. They have two ferocious inside players who will test Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green, two ferocious inside players themselves. The Grizzlies have an elite point guard who will make Curry work — if the Grizzlies’ point guard plays. Unlike the Pelicans, they are not thrilled to be in the playoffs. They expected to be here. They expect to beat the Warriors — that doesn’t mean they will. But I promise you this.
They will grind.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.