Here is a link to my Thursday column about Game 5. The full text runs below:
The Warriors already have shown us so much. Destroyed the Grizzlies 98-78 Wednesday night. Took a 3-2 lead in the semifinals against a very good Grizzlies team. Had the best regular-season record in the NBA. Blew out the Pelicans in four games in Round 1 and may have gotten the Pelicans coach fired.
So what else do we want from them?
The killer instinct. That’s what.
Can they make the long-distance flight to Memphis — admittedly on a luxury airliner — and invade the Grind House and put these Grizzlies away in Game 6 of this seven-game series? Take care of business. Do it on the road. Dismiss the good but lesser team. Kill them in their home.
It’s the first time this season anyone required the killer instinct of the Warriors. Everything has come so easily to them — so gracefully. The series against New Orleans was a stroll along the Mississippi. Never any doubt. Not that there’s doubt now. But these Grizzlies are still alive. They are grizzled veterans, if you will, and they will fight to stay alive. Fight hard.
Just put them away. Send them where they belong — into the offseason.
At some point in these playoffs, it will be important for the Warriors to close out a good team, to show the killer instinct against an elite team — possibly the Clippers or Atlanta. Who knows? Closing out a team is a virtue in itself. Closing out the Grizzlies in Game 6 in their house gives the Warriors practice, prepares them for even more serious tests. There will be more serious tests.
And closing out the Grizzlies in Game 6 prevents the Warriors from playing a Game 7 in Oakland on Sunday, prevents them from playing a do-or-die game. An elimination game. Throw salt over your shoulder for even considering that. Perish the thought.
After Wed nesday’s game, I said to Steve Kerr, “It’s obvious you want to close these guys out in Game 6. Is it important for a team that wants to win a championship to close out a good team like this on the road in their place?”
“It’s significant to win the series,” Kerr said. “I mean, obviously, that’s the whole goal. We would love to win it on the road. You always have to try to get it done when you can. You don’t want to mess around. You never know what can happen.
“Our intent is to go down there and play the kind of defense we’ve played the last two games, which really turned this series. I think I said the first couple of games our defense was good enough. (FYI, that’s what he kept telling me.) I was wrong. It wasn’t good enough. This is what it’s going to take from tonight and Game 4.”
Look, nobody expects the Warriors to lose this series. No one expects these slow, limited, mauled Grizzlies to eliminate the Warriors. But why even allow the possibility? Why take the chance some weird thing could happen? Believe me, weird things do happen — a Warriors’ injury, a last-second crazy Grizzlies’ shot that goes in. Who knows?
Just put them away.
Game 6 was interesting for a short while. Memphis came out fast and played well and maybe you thought this really could be a series. But what the Grizzlies showed early was all they had. A short burst of life and hope. And the Warriors kept coming and they slowly caught up and then asserted themselves, and even though the Grizzlies had led by 13, the Warriors won the first quarter by one point. And then the Warriors won the game and restored order. Made things as they should be.
The Grizzlies are tough. Give them credit. They play break-your-head defense and they make the game slow, make it a half-court muscle-against-sinew fight. They impose their will on you. It’s just that the Warriors are so good, so unrelentingly talented. They can shoot better and they can shoot faster than the Grizzlies. They defend just as well, just as hard and mean. They can beat the Grizzlies the Warriors’ way and they can beat the Grizzlies the Grizzlies’ way. They pure and simple can beat the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies are thinking one thing now. Only one. Force a Game 7. Win in Memphis on Friday, somehow win. Make the Warriors play Game 7 in Oakland. The Grizzlies tell themselves they already beat the Warriors once in these playoffs in Oakland and can do it again. They have to believe that.
All the more reason for the Warriors to close them out Friday.
Before the game, Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger met the media. He’s interesting. You would like this guy. He eats in the media eating room, jokes with us, watches hoops on TV. He’s one of the guys, no pretense. And a good coach.
Here’s what he told the media pregame, “You (can’t) get into second-guessing yourself. Or you’re afraid to make a move because you might hurt somebody’s feelings. Or, ‘I might get fired if I do this. Well, I think it’s the right thing to do, but I’m not going to do that.’ You can’t be afraid to lose your job to keep your job. You’ve got to make decisions you think are right. You have to be decisive.”
Everything Joerger said is right. He’s right a leader must be decisive. And he’s right about being unafraid. But his wisdom went for nothing Wednesday. Game 5 never came down to great thoughts. Joerger never had to make a big decision, a momentous decision because the game was beyond decisive thinking, beyond him and his brave players. The only decision Joerger could make was to keep trying — fruitlessly. That’s the same decision that faces him in Memphis.
So, it comes down to the Warriors. Put the Grizzlies away on Friday in their loud house. Turn their party into a wake. Close them out in six.
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