For the “The Alternate Side” from the Memphis series, I turned to Kevin Lipe (@FlyerGrizBlog), who covers the Grizzlies for the Memphis Flyer. After the series concluded on Friday, I asked Kevin about the series, the Warriors and what he expects from the Grizzlies moving forward.
1. What were your expectations coming in to the series?
I expected the Grizzlies to struggle, mostly because of Mike Conley’s facial fractures. Coming into the series, we still didn’t know if he’d even be able to play at all, much less return for Game 2. I figured the series would be a sweep without Conley; he’s so integral to the Grizzlies offense (such as it is) that the Warriors defense would’ve chewed the Griz up and spit them out without him. When Conley came back in Game 2 and played the way he did, that changed my expectations, and I knew it would be a longer series, 6 or 7 games, and that the Grizzlies had a shot at making some noise if not winning the whole thing.
2. What (if anything) surprised you about the Warriors?
I was surprised that it took them as long as it did to make that Game 4 adjustment of packing the paint and daring Tony Allen/Courtney Lee/Jeff Green to shoot over them. That was the Spurs’ game plan against the Grizzlies in the 2013 Conference Finals and that series was a sweep, so I was surprised that it took as long as it did for Kerr to make that adjustment.
I’m never surprised when some insane shot of Steph’s goes in. You have to expect him to hit everything he throws up and then be pleasantly surprised when he misses.
3. Did you think that the Oakland/Warriors fans lived up to the hype?
Most of my interactions with Warriors fans were in my Twitter mentions, which weren’t a happy place to be for most of the series. You have to understand that the Grizzlies also play in a home arena where you can’t hear the TV announcers over the crowd, and where the whole city lives or dies by what the Griz are doing in the playoffs. Playoffs in Memphis are more like a civic religion than a sporting event. All that is to say, Warriors fans are great fans. That team has been around forever and they’ve got a lot of support. But Grizzlies fans are pretty great, too. I thought both teams had great home crowds in the series.
4. Rank the Warriors starters (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green, Bogut) in terms of their importance to Golden State’s success
First is obviously Curry. Once he got it together in Game 4, the Warriors were pretty much unstoppable, because he couldn’t miss. The Griz were forcing him into bad shots and he was still hitting every last one of them. Klay Thompson was pretty bad on offense the whole series, but I thought his defense on Mike Conley was just as much what swung the series as guarding Tony Allen with Bogut, if not more. Cutting Conley off cuts off the Grizzlies offense, and Thompson did that, mostly at the expense of his offensive production. After that I think Barnes and Green are probably tied for second; both had some huge games and hit some really big shots, and both were constant factors on both ends of the floor. Green probably gets the edge for his defense. Draymond is probably the guy on the Warriors who Grizzlies fans covet the most, because he’s so much like some of the Grizzlies’ tough, brash big guys. I thought Bogut was okay, but not great, and I expected him to be a bigger factor than he was on defense. The Grizzlies didn’t struggle inside until Golden State started focusing on keeping them from getting to spots and using Bogut as a free-range rim protector; before that, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were doing pretty much what they wanted.
5. If you had to guess right now, how far do you think the Warriors make it in the playoffs?
I think they can win it all. I think the Grizzlies were probably the toughest matchup for them in the West–especially over the last three years together–and that if the Grizzlies had been healthy down the stretch of the season, Griz/Warriors probably would’ve been the Conference Finals instead of the second round. That said, I think they’re better than the Hawks and probably better than the Cavs, too, especially since they’re healthiest team left in the playoffs. I think the Warriors can win the title, for sure.
6. Assuming Marc Gasol sticks around, what changes (if any) would you like to see from the Grizzlies between now and October?
The Grizzlies have needed better shooting and better production from the wing spots for years now, and haven’t figured out how to get it. Part of the problem is an offensive system that doesn’t produce great looks for shooters; part of it personnel. Both of those need to adjust if the Grizzlies are going to win a title. Right now it’s still too easy to beat them in a playoff series by daring them to shoot jumpers, and it always will be until they make those tweaks.
If you have any feedback on this series or suggestions for future interviewees, let me know @DannyLeroux.