In a thorough Game 5 romp over Memphis, the Warriors have now provided back-to-back games of evidence that they can pass any test put upon a prospective champion. Though they had an all-time great comeback in Game 3 against the Pelicans and rolled in Games 1 and 4, New Orleans was a clear notch below the contenders in the West. They also blew out Memphis in Game 1 of this series, except that the Grizzlies were without Mike Conley. All things considered, this was the most dominant performance for the Warriors in the playoffs thus far.
Memphis jumped out to an early lead behind a quick nine points from Zach Randolph (he finished with 11 in the opening quarter), including a rare three-pointer. The Grizzlies were making the hustle plays, as two of Randolph’s buckets came on offensive rebounds and their transition defense thwarted the Warriors when they pushed the pace, efforts that were led by Conley. Starting 8-13 from the field, Memphis appeared locked-in and to be actually benefiting from Tony Allen forced to sit due to an injured hamstring.
And then the rest of the game happened. Golden State had plenty of turnovers (17), but it eventually paid off, as they led 20-2 in fastbreak points at the end of three quarters. That aforementioned Z-Bo three-pointer? It was the only one Memphis hit in those first three quarters. For perspective, Stephen Curry had four in the first quarter alone.
Pretty much everything that could go Golden State’s way in Game 5 did.
Curry scored just 18 points, 12 coming in the first, but, per the TNT broadcast, he became the first player in postseason history to notch six shots from downtown and six steals in the same game. Draymond Green missed all five of his triples but added nine assists. Harrison Barnes had another strong performance in a standout stretch for him. The most surprising of all was Andre Iguodala, who had 16 on 7-10 FG, including a couple threes, as the Warriors improved to 8-0 this year when Iggy scores 15, all except one of those victories by double digits. Somehow every loose ball ended up in their hands, and after the scrum, someone was usually open. Overall, the team drained 14 of their 30 attempts from long range.
As for Memphis, Klay Thompson (21 points on 7-16 FG, 3-4 from three) effectively guarded Conley, who had 13 points on 10 shots. Marc Gasol had a rough game, scoring 18 points but on 8-22 shooting. Randolph only finished with 13 points after that early flurry. On top of all that, continuing a trend from the entire series, no one from the supporting cast picked up the slack. Jeff Green? 5-13, 10 points. Throwback Vince Carter game? Not happening, 3-10, eight points. Nick Calathes? Please. Courtney Lee didn’t miss a shot, but he took just three of them for seven points.
When Memphis dominated Games 2 and 3, they made that dominance feel greater than the scoreboard because they imprinted their style on those games. While they weren’t slogs in terms of pace, one got the feeling that the Grizzlies had taken the Warriors and pinned them up against an alley wall. Well, in the last two rounds of this fight, Golden State has claimed resounding wins, just in a bit different manner. When they overwhelm opponents, it’s more like they drop them into oncoming traffic with cars approaching from all directions. Their runs are so furious and they happen in a flash, especially against the Grizz, who just can’t score from beyond the arc.
Memphis, like Chicago and Washington, went from having a home game to go up 3-1 to now needing a home win to force a Game 7 on the road. The big question for the Grizz is if they have one more adjustment up their sleeve. If not, their last resort is to simply get superstar performances from the Conley/Gasol/Randolph trio. It looks bleak for Memphis, but as they’ve shown over the years, that’s when they tend to come out fighting and play their best.