The Golden State Warriors don’t always have to win. They can hit the right buttons on their good nights and have defenses that worry about misreading and get lost in StephCurry/Klay Thompson/Jordan Poole positions when Draymond Green is tackling.
The tight finishes in games 1 and 2 in Memphis gave the Grizzlies confidence that they could solve the Golden State equation. In game 3, Golden State’s offense often resembles the three-card Monte trick. The Grizzlies found themselves trying to figure out which Splash Brother would launch at any moment and were knocked out by all three. Memphis appeared confused by the shots, moves, defensive rotations and lack of energy they showed at home.
Klay Thompson shot 4/6 shots over the arc and finished with 21 points. Jordan Poole Euro overcame countless flat-footed defenders, finishing with 27 points on the penalty spot. Steph Curry started 30 kicks, sinking 14 free throws, but only hit two three times.
Golden State has created new ways to keep the Memphis defense strong. The Grizzlies, after being chased, dodge too hard and find themselves fighting each other forever.
Then, in the final minutes of game time, Ja Morant limping off the floor with a knee injury was the most unsettling harbinger of Memphis’ Game 4 prospects. This is the perfect time to think that the Warriors will make it to the Western Conference finals, but Golden State needs to realize that Memphis will likely come out with a card in Game 4.
The Golden State cannot let its focus roam. The most dangerous animal you can encounter is an injured one. Memphis has shown the backbone to recover from major in-game deficits throughout the season. It rallied several times to win without Ja Morant during the regular season, setting a 20-5 record in games he sat in.
We’ve seen Golden State snag control of a series or game it had in hand before. There’s a thin line between Steve Kerr’s foul move moving in sync and the chaos that kept Memphis around in the first half. Golden State shot the ball 70% of the field, but almost tripped when it made 14 turns.
No one shares the style of play like Golden State, whose 29.4 assists per game in the post-season, topping playoff teams by a significant margin. It leads the league in assists per game after the 2015 to 2019 season, saving for 2017 when it came in second behind New Orleans. When Kerr joined the Warriors, he watched 300 passes per game as a barometer for criminal behavior. Sometimes they take that lesson too far and passing becomes their highlight. When the Warriors start to get too energetic, the ball turns into a live grenade that they can’t wait to throw back to the opposing team.
Game 4 at home with the opportunity to take a 3-1 lead is the perfect time for Golden State to have a comfortable mentality. Golden State would have nearly full talent available, assuming Green didn’t get himself a silly tech, but Memphis brought Dillon Brooks back. Brooks has only scored eight points in this series, but he’s also fresh, strong, and ready to explode at the seams to make up for lost time.
Golden State was hot in Game 2, but this series could hinge on whether the team can maintain the same energy for Game 3.