What a way to cap off the first round of the play-in tournament for the Western Conference. A competitive, down-to-the-wire finish in LA saw the Lakers lock in the 7th seed over the Warriors in one of the most thrilling games in a while. In the earlier game, the Memphis Grizzlies eliminated the Spurs behind excellent play from Valanciunas and a defensive clinic put on by Dillon Brooks. Both teams are just as needy of a win as before, but who takes it? Now that the 7th seed is locked up allowing the Lakers to rest before clashing with Phoenix, who awaits the Jazz? Will it be the Warriors led by Steph Curry and his shooting parade, or the interior nightmare Grizzlies?
GAME FOR THE 8TH SEED: (9) Grizzlies @ (8) Warriors) Friday May 21, 6 PM PST
Both these teams came ready to play and fight for a playoff spot. The Grizzlies played a gritty game of basketball and almost choked their lead. They had outstanding production from Jonas Valanciunas, who had a double-double before halftime and were sharp on the defensive side of things. The Warriors played their guts out and if it weren’t for a couple of calls and missed opportunities, the Lakers could have easily been in this article instead.
If Memphis has a chance to win this game at all, they need to play strong on the inside and have active hands against the Warriors. Golden State had 20 turnovers against the Lakers and were clumsy with the ball, allowing LA to swipe away 15 steals on the night. In a game where a guy like Dillon Brooks is on the prowl, Memphis can easily swipe the ball away as they are the best team on the season in steals (9.1 a game). Memphis also has to ensure the inside as they have all season, but they also need to have better shooting if the paint gets congested and they are forced to shoot. They made only 7 threes against the Spurs in their win and against a team that’ll put on a shooting clinic behind Steph. It won’t be easy, but the tenacity and brute force the Grizzlies play with should give them an advantage if used correctly, against a quicker Warriors squad.
Golden State played one of their best basketball games, and just barely lost to the best defensive team and the reigning champs. The Grizzlies might have won, but the Warriors definitely have the momentum right now. For the Dubs to secure the win, they need to play smarter and more efficiently on offense. They can’t afford to turn the ball over like they did in LA, and they also can’t afford for Curry to start the game slow. They must set the tempo like they have all year which has them tied for second for offensive pace. Passing the ball around and getting people involved is also a huge boost as the Warriors are first in total assists and assists per game this season. We know they won’t win the paint battle against the Grizzlies, but if they can create enough pressure to force them outside where they are a bottom 12 shooting team they may have a chance. You can’t let the best points-in-the-paint team feast inside, you have to have them beat you elsewhere. If the Warriors play like today, though, this game is theirs to lose.
I believe the Warriors win yet another close game to lock up the 8th seed and face Utah. The Dubs played their best ball and BARELY lost to the reigning champs. The Grizzlies played a bad game and still couldn’t hold on to a lead. I know Memphis just won but the Warriors legit needed one call to go their way and they would be on the way to Phoenix. The Grizzlies will make it a defensive battle early but in the end I believe the Warriors shooting will propel them to the next round. The last time they played, Steph had 46 points. It’s going to be a close game throughout, but the lack of production outside the paint is going to hinder Memphis’ chances of competing once the ball starts flying.