For the first time this season, the Golden State Warriors are facing some serious adversity. Although they were heavily favored to win this series overall, the Warriors now find themselves behind in their Western Conference Semifinals matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, who took the 2-1 series lead with their 99-89 win on Saturday.
After finishing the regular season with a 67-15 record (the sixth best record in NBA history), the Warriors entered the playoffs with high expectations and as one of the favorites to win the NBA title this year. The Warriors cruised through the first round in their matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Warriors struggled a few times in the series, but they ultimately were able to capture the first round sweep of the Pelicans.
In their second round series with the Grizzlies, not only are the Warriors facing a more experienced playoff team, but they’re also facing a team who plays physically and with a contrasting style to theirs. The Warriors like to play up-tempo and rely heavily on their backcourt, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, for scoring, and the Grizzlies like to play at a slow pace and play a more grind-it-out style with the focus on their bigs, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
After winning the first game in the series 101-86, the Warriors lost Game Two 97-90 at Oracle Arena and lost Game Three, as previously mentioned, in Memphis. The Grizzlies took away home court advantage with their win in Game Two, and now it’s time for the Warriors to re-gain the advantage by securing a Game Four win today in Memphis.
In their two losses in this series, the Warriors fell victim to the Grizzlies’ physical and frustrating style of play. The Grizzlies literally frustrated the Warriors, as the Splash Brothers failed to knock down shots they normally hit, the team turned the ball over at a higher rate than usual, and the team’s chemistry and flow didn’t appear as tight as usual.
On Sunday, the team re-watched their efforts in Game Three, and Draymond Green came to a conclusion about the team’s effort in Saturday’s game, according to Ray Ratto of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.
“We all want to make the play that gets us back and gets the lead back in a hurry,” he said Sunday, “instead of just trusting each other and running our stuff. It’s all good intentions, but everyone almost feels like they have to do it on their own.”
In Games Two and Three, the Warriors didn’t appeared as cohesive as they were all season, which Green alluded to. The Warriors know that Game Four is close to a must-win situation for them, and they know that they have to stick together and fight together to re-gain the momentum in this series. Curry discussed this with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle after Game Three.
“We’ve gotten hit in the mouth two times in a row,” Curry said. “It’s important for us to answer that call. We can get it done. Nobody is defeated in our locker room. I think everybody’s heads are up, and we’re pretty encouraged by the effort that we had.
“This is a big opportunity, a big challenge and I like our chances.”
Green had the same view when he spoke to reporters after Game Three as well.
“We’re fine,” Green said. “Obviously, we’re pissed off. You want to win. After losing two in a row, you’re not going to be happy, but at the same time, nobody is jumping off the ship or jumping off the boat. Nobody is panicking or throwing in the towel. We’re turning our mind-sets to focus on Game 4.”
The Warriors need to get back to trusting each other (as Green mentioned), playing together, and playing for each other. Curry is correct that the Warriors have a challenge ahead of themselves, but they must get back to playing their style of basketball, which relies on a total team effort, if they want to win Game Four.
The Warriors aren’t afraid of a challenge. In fact, Steve Kerr believes that this will be a great test for this team to see if they are truly ready to contend and fight for a championship. Ratto again with the report:
“It’s a learning process for us,” he said, choosing to omit the part that this is part of a very long final exam and every question is graded. “This is our moment of truth. We have to learn from this.”
Adversity breeds toughness and perspective. This could be the perfect dose of adversity for the Warriors to re-focus and, proverbially and literally, put the ball back in their court.
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