Last night, the Golden State Warriors (5-11) took a 20-point lead over the Memphis Grizzlies (10-6) in the second half of the contest and looked as though they would coast to a victory late in the game. Stephen Curry was busy keeping Mike Conley on his heels with his ball handling wizardry and his shooting while Monta Ellis was converting open shots on his way to an efficient scoring night.
One could argue that save for the early turnovers in the game, the Dubs backcourt looked like the best in the league last night. The Grizzlies just could not stop them, limit them or even slow them down despite Tony Allen’s impressive defense.
And then, the apocalypse hit in the fourth quarter.
Memphis had trouble scoring throughout the game as the Warriors used some good defense to keep the Grizzlies at bay and hold them to 52 points through three quarters and take a 16-point lead going into the fourth. But then in the final period, Memphis stepped up the intensity and showed they did not care much for Golden State’s guards.
Although Monta was still able to shake free for a few baskets in the final 12 minutes of the game, Tony Allen literally put a blanket on him. When Curry tried to pass the ball to his backcourt mate on the wing, Allen got into the passing lane and got himself a steal to score the other way. When Monta finally caught the ball in scoring position at the 3-point line, Allen knocked the ball out of his hands.
The Grizzlies took their defense to another notch and the Warriors folded down the stretch. For lack of a better term, the Dubs were rattled.
Memphis used an aggressive defense to get the ball out of the hands of their opponents and score 16 fast break points in the fourth quarter after failing to register any in the previous three quarters. The end result was that Lionnel Hollins’ bunch scored a staggering 39 points in the final period as the Warriors were left completely dumbfounded.
For those that have watched Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups play with the Clippers, there is no way to substitute for a great backcourt. Indeed, late in games, when decision-making becomes paramount to the success of a team, having a guard tandem that can break down their defenders and also routinely decipher the best option on a given play gives the team a huge advantage. For three quarters, it seemed as though Curry and Ellis were completely in control of the game.
The final period proved that the guards still have some growing to do on this front.
Curry was fantastic in the pick-and-roll action with David Lee last night, and yet late in the ball game they chose to try on repeated occasions to get the ball to Monta Ellis without the benefit of screens to free him up. In addition, the plays drawn up for Monta had isolation written all over them. Granted, Ellis had been successful shooting the ball against Allen, but with the Memphis guard literally in his jersey and the remainder of his defense backing him up, it’s highly doubtful that Golden State’s leading scorer would have been able to score against the Grizzlies set defense in late in the game.
Once the Grizzlies took a one-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors panicked. Literally.
Curry and Ellis both caught the ball and settled for 3-point shots when they could have run their offense. David Lee caught a few offensive rebounds in the same sequence to help the Dubs try and get a score, but when he passed the ball to one of his guards, they immediately fired away from deep.
By game’s end, the Warriors backcourt scored 38 points on 16-for-30 field goal shooting; but they were also responsible for half of the Dubs 24 turnovers.
The combination of Mike Conley and Tony Allen on the other hand managed to score 32 points on 12-for-26 shooting and turned the ball over seven times. But in crunch time though, they outplayed their counterparts and helped their team steal a victory on the road.
Maybe at some point the Warriors can look back at this moment as a mere growing pain that allowed them to become a better ball club and also helped the backcourt become more decisive and also more efficient.
But until that time comes, unfortunately the rhetoric will be that the star guards choked a win away. And it’s hard to argue…
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.