The Golden State Warriors won Game One of their second-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. The visiting team eked out a one-point victory behind the spectacular performance of Jordan Poole. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson displayed tremendous defense in thwarting Ja Morant at the rim on separate plays late in the fourth quarter. Thompson provided the game-winning points via a side-step, dagger three when the Warriors were down two. The Warriors won Game One despite Draymond Green committing a foul controversially ruled a flagrant two and being ejected.
The Warriors played extremely well to come away with the victory. They had more time to prepare for this series, since Memphis ended their first-round matchup against Minnesota on Friday, but were playing on the road. They also dealt with the aforementioned Green ejection, as well as Curry and Thompson shooting a combined 14-39 from the field (about 36%). What can we learn about how the Warriors won Game One, and are the components of their victory replicable going forward?
Golden State Warriors: Three Takeaways from Game One Win
Forcing the right Grizzlies to Shoot Threes
All statistics from Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise
The Grizzlies actually outshot the Warriors from beyond the arc on Sunday; the teams shot 16-40 (40%) and 14-38 (36.8%), respectively. That’s fantastic work for the Grizzlies against Golden State, whose Splash Brothers are capable of turning any game into a Poole party. A closer look at who took those threes, though, shows the Warriors’ influence on Memphis’ shot selection. Morant shot 11 threes, and while he made 4, those were plays Morant wasn’t getting into the paint for layups, free throws, or kick-out passes to open shooters dotting the three-point line. Morant had only one other game this regular season with at least 11 threes; he shot 12 when facing an experienced, physical Celtics defense on March 3rd. Morant scored 38 that game, but his Grizzlies lost by 13.
Desmond Bane is the Grizzlies’ best three-point shooter at 43%, but he only attempted five in 32 minutes after averaging nearly seven in under 30 minutes a game this regular season. The Warriors won Game One by making sure no defenders left Bane to help in the paint. They were content to let other Grizzlies shoot; Jaren Jackson Jr. burned them, making 6 of 9, but Dillon Brooks missed 6 of his 8 attempts. The Warriors conceded threes by the “right” shooters, and the strategy paid off.
The Golden State Warriors kept the possession game even
Turnovers and rebounding were areas of concern for the Warriors heading into this series. Those are also areas of strength for the Grizzlies. They finished the regular season fourth in the rate of turnovers forced per 100 possessions and collected more of their own misses than any other team as the best offensive-rebounding bunch in the league. The Warriors won Game One by holding up well in these categories. The Warriors can (and did) survive committing three more turnovers than the Grizzlies (17 to 14), and they thrived in out-rebounding Memphis 51-47. The return of Green will be interesting to watch in terms of the possession battle. Green is one of their best defenders and had four rebounds and countless solid box-outs in the first half. On the other hand, Green had five turnovers in his 17 abbreviated minutes. The possession battle remains a key area to watch after the Warriors won game one, and will remain imperative for the rest of the series.
They Can Still Play Better
The Warriors won game one despite the poor shooting performances from Curry (a top-notch playoff performer) and Thompson. Memphis was able to find more success attacking the paint in the second half without Green. Jackson, in particular, took advantage after making a few threes. He took advantage of the harried defenders closing out to him by finding room to operate in the paint. He looked particularly potent when matched up with Wiggins.
Green will obviously be back in Game Two, and at least one of the Splash Brothers should shoot more accurately. They’ll certainly hope to reduce their fouls after committing 25 to Memphis’ 19. The Warriors won Game One despite Curry, Thompson, and Gary Payton II getting called for three fouls each in the first half, which is exceedingly unlikely to be repeated.
Overall, Golden State has plenty to be proud of after the Warriors won Game One. They also played imperfectly enough to think simple adjustments could lead to a bigger margin of victory in Game Two. That, and maybe more than 17 minutes from Green.
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