The duel that everyone has been waiting and hoping for for several months has finally arrived. On the one hand: the youth, insolence and ardor of the Grizzlies led by Ja MorantAll-Star for the first time in his career this season and voted Most Improved Player, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. On the other: Hybrid Warriors, with their trio of champions Stephen Curry, Draymond Green And Klay Thompsonand a collection of young talent and veterans who helped them become a Western Conference favorite once again after two years without the playoffs.
If Memphis had to whip to take out Minnesota in the first round, the Warriors repelled the Nuggets with authority. It is the first time the two teams have met in the playoffs since 2015. It was Steve Kerr’s first season at the helm of the Warriors and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s “Grit & Grind” Grizzlies took the lead. the same phase of the competition before Golden State found the key by putting Andrew Bogut, their pivot, on Tony Allen, to stop the opponent’s attack and regain his rhythm.
The roles are reversed this time. Like the Warriors of 2015, it is the young Grizzlies who will take the Western Conference by storm and to achieve their goals they will have to find the parade against the seasoned Warriors. Memphis has the advantage at home but Golden State, with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, have won at least one away game in 24 consecutive playoff series, an NBA record. Who will emerge victorious from this duel? Here are the forces involved.
PRESENTATION OF THE GRZZLIE
Owners: J. Morant, D. Bane, D. Brooks, J. Jackson Jr., S. Adams / X. farmer
Spare parts: T. Jones, D. Melton, Z. Williams, K. Anderson, B. Clarke, J. Konchar, X. Tillman / S. Adams.
Absent: Steven Adams is currently in covid protocol.
The coach: T. Jenkins.
– An aggressive defense that acts as a stepping stone. During the regular season, the Grizzlies were the team that forced the most loose balls (16.3 per game). Taylor Jenkins has wonderfully used his team’s strengths to build a defense that is both aggressive on the ball carrier and active in his rotations thanks to his athletic, physical and fast players. This defensive activity is essential to allow Ja Morant and company to transform these ball losses into a transition where it is difficult to stop them. Memphis finished the first round with the third best defense, forcing the Timberwolves to drop nearly 18 drop balls per game.
– The boarding of the opponent’s racket and the circle. With Ja Morant in the lead, the Grizzlies were the team that scored the most points in the key during the regular season (57.6 points per game). In the first round, they scored 46% of their key points and also attacked the offensive rebound with ferocity, catching up to 30% of the missed shots. This aggression also allowed them to shoot the most free throws per game in the first round. Faced with less imposing Warriors than the Timberwolves and with a different defensive strategy, Ja Morant should have more room to attack the circle. Memphis will also be able to go into overdrive to target Jordan Poole and put pressure on the offensive rebound.
– Lack of external address. The Grizzlies’ two strengths serve to offset a significant weakness, especially in today’s NBA, which is their lack of external threats except Desmond Bane. The latter was also the most prolific 3-point shooter in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately for Memphis, behind him, it is the irregularity that is in order. The Grizzlies also make only 30% of their shots from behind 7.25m, a mark that places them at the bottom of the NBA.
– Taking risks. For many, the duel between the Grizzlies and the Timberwolves was the craziest streak of the first round. One of the main reasons for this discovery was the multitude of mistakes made by both teams. Memphis have managed to extricate themselves from this confrontation but if their lack of rigor is confirmed against a more experienced team like Golden State, this time around they will not have the chance to come back from more than ten points away to win three games, as they have. made against Minnesota.
PRESENTATION OF THE WARRIORS
The starting five: S. Curry, K. Thomson, A. Wiggins, D. Green. J. Poole / K. Looney
The bench : K.Looney / J. Poole, G. Payton II, O. Porter Jr, J. Kuminga, N. Bjelica, J. Toscano-Anderson.
The absent : James Wiseman (knee), Andre Iguodala (cervical)
The coach: S.Kerr
– Their movement and address. The Warriors finished round one with the best playoff offense behind 42% 3-point wins. Jordan Poole’s outburst in the first three games and Stephen Curry’s return to prominence prompted Steve Kerr to get his two point guards started in Game 5 to put pressure on an overwhelmed Denver defense. If manager could start the series with Kevon Looney in the starting lineup, the Warriors are at their best with Curry, Thompson and Poole on the move, Draymond Green orchestrating this organized chaos and Andrew Wiggins attacking the circle. The defense of Memphis will have to make choices and will not be able to “hide” Ja Morant.
– Draymond Green less under pressure. With Nikola Jokic in his rearview mirror and no interior of this caliber in the Grizzlies, Draymond Green will find a role he particularly likes in the second curtain. Steve Kerr has already announced that he has blind faith in his defense captain and will allow him to do whatever he wants. With Ja Morant’s threat, he will have a key role to play in not only protecting the circle but also derailing the Grizzlies’ attack.
– The lack of size. If Steve Kerr’s “Fast Five” is hard to defend, it’s inches and pounds on the other side. We have seen Denver, and particularly Aaron Gordon, during Matches 4 and 5, attack the circle relentlessly to take advantage of this lack of size. Even this five has no room for maneuver on the rebound. The Nuggets had 14 offensive rebounds in the first three quarters of Game 5 before the Warriors woke up. Golden State has held its defensive rebound this season, but they had never been able to play these five players together. Finally, with the exception of Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins, and with the absence of Andre Iguodala, this team lacks athletes who can compete with those of the Grizzlies.
– their waste. Since Steve Kerr joins the Warriors, players have the freedom to try. He gives this selfless and quick attack that has dominated the NBA for several years, but also ball losses that can feed the opponent. Memphis is the worst opponent in this context and only Houston has lost more balls than the Golden State this season. If the Warriors go from spectacular to reckless, they could be in trouble in this series.
KEYS AS STANDARD
– The battle of possessions and style. The strengths of the Grizzlies are the weaknesses of Golden State and vice versa. Sure, the Warriors should largely win the battle for the 3 points, but will it be enough if the Grizzlies can take advantage of their ball loss and gobble up offensive rebounds and free throws? This is the equation that will need to be kept in mind during this series. The Warriors will therefore try to force Memphis to play in the middle of the field, forcing them to shoot from half distance and from 3 points, and limiting them to one attempt for possession, while Memphis will try to run and attack early, while limiting the same opportunities for Golden State. . Get the popcorn out!
– The contributions of the second knives. While both defenses will struggle to stop opposing stars, it has been seen that both teams benefited from significant contributions from the bench to complete the first round. Gary Payton II is the Warrior who is most likely to slow Ja Morant, but can he continue to have an impact on offense? Brandon Clarke dominated the offensive rebound against Minnesota and replaced Jaren Jackson Jr, when he was hampered by fouls, marvelously. Can he repeat this effort against Golden State? Given the pace and pressure both teams can put on each defense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two cornerstones of this series, Steven Adams and Kevon Looney, anchored on the bench for the next two weeks. Can Jonathan Kuminga or Ziaire Williams Create a Surprise X Factor? The two coaches will have to reduce the rotation and find solutions from match to match. Whoever emerges victorious from this chess match will reach the final of the conference.
October 28, 2021: Golden State – Memphis (101-104)
December 23, 2021: Golden state – Memphis (113-104)
January 11, 2022: Memphis – Golden State (116-108)
March 28, 2022: Memphis – Golden state (123-95)
The pace between diminished Nuggets and Grizzlies is high, but that between inexperienced Timberwolves and Warriors with champion DNA is even more so. Memphis, however, has a lot of weapons to field, starting with Ja Morant who should be more comfortable against the Golden State models.
That said, the Grizzlies struggled to get out of that first round. They showed good face in the last quarters but also made mistakes which, against the Warriors, will undoubtedly be very expensive. Steve Kerr’s men know how to approach an opponent like the Grizzlies and know how much every possession counts in the playoffs. The Grizzlies will no doubt give them a hard time, but Golden State won’t collapse like the Wolves in decisive moments. And that gives Golden State an edge.
Gold status 4-2
Game 1: in Memphis, Sunday May 1 (9:30 pm, France)
Game 2: in Memphis, Tuesday May 3 (3:30 AM, Tuesday evening to Wednesday in France)
Game 3: in San Francisco, Saturday 7 May (02:30 am, Saturday-Sunday night in France)
Game 4: in San Francisco, Monday May 9 (04:00, Monday evening to Tuesday in France)
Game 5 *: in Memphis, Wednesday 11 May (date to be defined)
Game 6 *: in San Francisco, Friday 13 May (date to be defined)
Game 7 *: in Memphis, Sunday 15 May (date to be defined)
* If necessary.