Wednesday night’s 134-95 Game 5 victory over the Golden State Warriors at FedExForum kept the Memphis Grizzlies’ postseason aspirations alive. Seven members of the Memphis roster finished the game with double-digit points, demonstrating the team’s depth.
With the win, the Grizzlies avoid elimination. They will now play Game 6 in San Francisco, setting up the possibility of a decisive Game 7 in Memphis if they win in California on Friday. Here are the three most important lessons from Game 5.
1. Not quite the worst blowout in playoff history.
Before Golden State’s 28-15 fourth-quarter victory, this game had the potential to go down in history. The 2009 Denver Nuggets’ 58-point victory over the then-New Orleans Hornets was the greatest blowout in playoff history. The Grizzlies held a 55-point advantage in the third quarter. They might have won by 60 or 70 points if they had pushed harder. We are certain that they can. They won a regular-season game against the Thunder by 73 points in December.
Let’s concentrate on the first three-quarters of the game, the competitive phase. At that point, the Grizzlies led by so many points that they would still maintain a one-point advantage, 68-67, if you took away all 17 of their 3-pointers. They won the third quarter by an absurd 25-point margin. In a little more than a half, they surpassed their 98-point output from Game 4. This may not be the worst postseason defeat in NBA history, but it’s certainly not far off.
2. A ball-control masterpiece
In the first half, the shooting percentages indicated a very close game. However, in the second half, the shooting percentages exploded. The Warriors converted 47.4% of their first-half field goal attempts. The Grizzlies converted 50.9% of their shots. The Warriors shot 39.1 percent of 3-pointers in the first half. The Grizzlies converted 44.4% of their photos. Golden State even had a greater free throw percentage. Typically, one would see these figures and anticipate a close game. This game, as we all know, was not close. Why? In the first half, however…
The Grizzlies had 10 more offensive rebound opportunities than the Warriors.
The Warriors turned the ball over 11 more times than the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies attempted 18 more field goals than the Warriors due to these two factors.
It isn’t easy to win a basketball game if you never possess the ball. In some measure, this was anticipated. This season, the Grizzlies were the top offensive rebounding club in the NBA by a wide margin. Golden State’s motion and pass-heavy approach incorporate turnovers with the notion that the Warriors compensate for them by generating cleaner looks on subsequent possessions. But such numbers are something altogether else.
Getting Steven Adams back into the rotation appears to have made a difference. The Warriors cannot defend him as effectively as Minnesota could without a big shooting man. The Warriors certainly anticipated an easy victory against a weakened opponent, but their sluggish night of basketball contributed to their loss. Now they must play Game 6 without Gary Payton II and possibly Otto Porter Jr., knowing that a loss will force them to play a decisive Game 7 on the road. These are places where the Warriors should lose, but Wednesday’s defeat cannot be justified.
3. Kerr at the wheel
Would you believe that Warriors interim coach Mike Brown had a 12-1 record as Steve Kerr’s replacement after this catastrophe? During the 2017 playoffs, the soon-to-be head coach of the Sacramento Kings went 11-0 while standing in for Steve Kerr. He won Game 4 for his 12th victory. In Game 5, he suffered his first defeat, and it was an unpleasant one.
His Game 4 victory was also nothing to write home about. It should not require a double-digit comeback to defeat a team without its greatest player on your home court. But the Warriors have played this type of basketball in their last two games. Lax, inattentive, and careless. Stephen Curry saved them in Game 4 because he is Stephen Curry. Occasionally, he is capable of doing so. Nothing could have prevented their demolition in Game 5.
Would this defeat have occurred if Kerr had been in charge? Probably. No single coach is worth 40 points each game. However, the Warriors have not resembled themselves since their coach contracted COVID-19. It is crucial to get him back on the bench as quickly as possible. Already absent are Payton and possibly Porter. The absence of their coach makes matters more difficult.