Here is a link to my Wednesday column about Game 2 of the Warriors-Grizzlies series. The full text runs below:
OAKLAND — Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a playoff series. The Memphis Grizzlies seemed embalmed after a Game 1 stinker (for them) at Oracle Arena, but rose from the dead Tuesday night at the same venue and buried the Warriors 97-90. Death analogies abound.
People — me among them — said this seven-game series was over after one game. That’s how hopeless the Grizzlies had looked. Like a beer-league team that had wandered into the arena on a special invitation. There was nothing beer-league about them in Game 2. They did to the Warriors what they wanted. And this is what they did.
They made Draymond Green blow his cool early. He got two quick fouls in the first quarter and then he yelled at an official and got a technical foul, and Steve Kerr had to yank Green from the game for his own good. Later, Green hit Mike Conley in his broken face, a bad look even if he didn’t mean it. Conley writhed on the court and the Grizzlies stared down the Warriors and the Warriors stared down the Grizzlies, and the game was on.
Note: Green’s emotion is good except when it isn’t good. Except when it’s too much emotion. He hurt his team Tuesday night. And he could not handle large Zach Randolph. Couldn’t do it. Everyone wondered how Green would do against a bigger, stronger power forward who actually uses that strength, who backs him in. Not so hot.
Randolph could shoot over Green like a big brother shooting over his shrimp kid brother. Randolph could move him. Very bad. And the Grizzlies had their way with the Warriors in such an unsightly Grizzlies way. Push and shove the Warriors like wrestlers in a tag-team match. But it’s legal and it worked and the Warriors couldn’t handle the Grizzlies’ muscle and sweat.
Klay Thompson killed them. He scored 13 points, many near the end. He got called for traveling in the third quarter. Griped at the official. Waved his hand in frustration. Just out of sorts.
The MVP, all credit to him, never really showed up. Not the way he usually shows up.
It was kind of strange, the whole game. The Warriors were down 50-39 at the half. Thirty-nine points? They were shooting under 37 percent. Stephen Curry had only nine points at the half and Thompson had five (two for nine, ugh!), and Green had two and you knew those players would come back and score. You knew the 11-point deficit was strictly no big deal.
You thought the Warriors were hanging close to the Grizzlies without their main guys scoring and they would cruise when Curry and the rest got into the game and they put all the MVP stuff behind them and took care of business. You thought the Warriors would come back and take over like they did in the fourth quarter of that heroic game in New Orleans.
You certainly thought they could take advantage of Randolph’s defense. He is so slow. Slow does not describe him. He moves with the agility of a Kenmore freezer, of a hippo on its hind legs, of the corner mail box. He may be a nice man, but he’s the kind of slow victim the Warriors feed on. The Warriors never took a bite.
The Warriors tried to close the gap, but never closed the gap. Where was the snappy passing and the cuts to the basket and their general beauty and brilliance? They were sloppy. They kept turning over the ball. They never sustained a comeback. They had trouble scoring twice in a row. A former NBA player said, “I don’t recognize them.”
Afterward, Kerr said, “I thought we lost our poise tonight. We were in such a rush. It takes an eternity to win an NBA game. We were in the second quarter and it felt like desperation out there. We didn’t play well enough to win.”
Did the presence of Memphis point guard Mike Conley make that big a difference? In his mask, he looked like man playing behind a window. But he played. And he played well and, frankly, something big may have changed Tuesday night.
Because, really, it was shocking to see the Warriors lose even one game. You thought they would go undefeated. That’s how dominant they have seemed. That’s how they have outclassed the rest. But, suddenly, the Warriors don’t look so invulnerable. Someone beat them. A team actually beat them. A team with two slow big men and a guard with a broken face beat them.
Funny how fast the look of a series changes. The Warriors have lost home-court advantage. They go back to Memphis, to the Grizzlies’ very loud arena and play the Grizzlies in the Grizzlies’ house, a Grizzlies team that thinks it can win.
An interesting question and, frankly, a good question intrudes itself into the conversation, rudely shoves its way in. When things get tough — and they currently are tough — do the 67-win warriors have what it takes to suck it up and win this playoff series, to just beat these guys?
Another question: Just who are these Warriors?
They should welcome the chance to answer. Or as Kerr said, “It’s not always going to work. This is the playoffs. You get outplayed by a really good team. It’s 1-1. We move on.”
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