In most games, especially in a best-of-seven format where everything is connected, there are compelling angles to examine. They exist even in lopsided matchups like Golden State-New Orleans (The Warriors struggling with Draymond Green on the bench) or Cleveland-Boston. (How David Blatt and Kyrie Irving fare in their playoff debut)
This series, however, is an exception, at least for as long as Mike Conley is out, because Memphis is simply outgunned against Golden State. That was on full display in the Warriors’ 101-86 Game 1 victory on Sunday.
Even if they get Conley back mid-series, Game 1 showed that it’ll be a steep uphill climb. Early on, the Grizzlies had some nice cuts to the basket, but they lacked the pinpoint precision required on both passes and shots to finish the play, which let Golden State find its groove in transition early. Combined with a scorching Green (3-4 from downtown), Golden State led 32-25 after one, a quarter in which they shot 65 percent.
Memphis stayed within striking distance with over-50 percent shooting of its own, along with triples from Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih. However, those would be the final threes for Memphis all day, besides a meaningless one in garbage time. After going 11-43 from beyond the arc in the New Orleans series, Golden State’s supporting cast came alive in the first half, hitting 6-10 from distance to take the load off Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 18 points, 2-6 on threes and five turnovers in the half.
The Grizzlies were quite competitive in various pockets of the game, but it’s just too hard to beat this Warriors team, let alone in Oracle Arena, without hitting threes to counter those scoring flurries that the Warriors throw at opponents. Memphis made a couple of mini-runs to get within striking distance, only for Curry (22 points, seven assists) and Thompson (18 and six) to slam the door shut with shots from long range.
Marc Gasol (21 points, nine boards, three assists, three steals, 11-12 FTs) and Zach Randolph (20 points on 9-15 shooting, nine boards, five assists) got Green (under 28 minutes) and Andrew Bogut (under 25) into foul trouble, but they just didn’t get the help like the Splash Brothers did. Nick Calathes went scoreless, Vince Carter was 1-7 and Jeff Green wasn’t of much help despite a decent box score line. (4-9 FG, nine points, four assists) When Tony Allen (15 points) is your only source of wing scoring, you’re in deep trouble regardless of opponent.
The fixes for Memphis aren’t obvious. Golden State attacked Randolph on defense, and, at least on this day, Green’s jumper was falling, which makes the Warriors relatively unbeatable. While Conley’s potential return would be a big boost, both emotionally and in terms of X’s and O’s, it won’t make Randolph more agile on defense, nor give them an alternate stretch big to experiment with. Going small goes against their identity and wouldn’t help much anyway, barring Green or Carter stepping up in a big way. Their best chance is to wear out Steph and/or Draymond, neither of which was possible when Golden State displays this type of balance.