This was ugly.
This was physical, full of mistakes, missed shots, and miscues. The game plan couldn’t have resembled how the Warriors won Game Four. For the sake of Kings fans everywhere let’s hope not, anyway.
Mike Brown was the substitute coach for the Warriors after Steve Kerr was placed in health and safety protocols. The new head coach in Sacramento led the team to a win, but this was not a triumph. The Warriors won Game Four in the face of tenacious Grizzlies defense and were fortunate Ja Morant was unable to play. There are no style points in the postseason, however. A three-point kayak through a choppy river counts the same as a 30-point cruise, as Sea Captain Klay Thompson might say. Here’s how the Warriors won Game Four and sealed their commanding 3-1 series lead.
How the Golden State Warriors Won Game Four
It’s impossible to complement the Warriors’ defensive performance without again mentioning Morant’s absence. The Warriors defended Morant well in Game Three, utilizing a variety of schemes and defenders. They ran a 1-2-2 zone in the first quarter to disrupt Memphis’ rhythm, then stayed disciplined and forced Morant to his weaker right hand. It was a vast improvement over Game Two. Morant still finished with 34 points on incredible efficiency and added seven assists.
Credit the Warriors for taking advantage of Morant’s absence, then. They conceded a number of size mismatches against this Memphis team but fought well without excessive fouling. The Warriors won Game Four by ensuring the Grizzlies couldn’t create threes without their primary shot creator. Memphis’ 9-35 shooting from three (just 26%) meant they could never take full advantage of their own stifling defense. There was no fear of facing a 20-point lead against Morant-less Memphis, as they couldn’t sustain a threatening scoring run. The game essentially being decided by Draymond Green’s block of a Jaren Jackson Jr. three-point attempt was a fitting end.
This is, admittedly, boring. No one wants to talk about free throws! Those little set shots from a line painted can’t be the reason your favorite team won. The fact is Golden State made 20 free throws, and Memphis converted only nine. The Warriors won Game Four by limiting the Grizzlies to 15 free throw attempts, an extension of their good defense mentioned above.
The value of Stephen Curry was on display as he made every free throw in the final frame. The Warriors as a team shot 20-22 from the line. The Warriors attempted at least 22 free throws in less than half their games this regular season. Memphis did intentionally foul late in the fourth quarter to inflate the Warriors’ free throw totals. Still, making 91% was a tidy improvement over their 77% number for the season. It was a team effort, with only Curry and Andrew Wiggins missing freebies on the night.
Memphis’ own mistakes played a big role as the Warriors won Game Four. Golden State has a history of turnover issues, but the Grizzlies’ shot selection became the biggest self-inflicted wound either team faced.
Desmond Bane hit a tremendous buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, bruising his way through defenders to hoist the ball on time. It was reminiscent of Curry’s three to end the third quarter in Game Four of the Warriors’ second-round series against Memphis in 2015. If Memphis won this game, plenty of think pieces comparing the two shots would have been written. To say it’s Dillon Brooks’ fault Bane’s shot won’t be remembered that way is probably an overstatement. Brooks’ 5-19 performance makes that a valid thought, however. The final make was a meaningless, banked-in three from just inside of halfcourt with the game already decided, as well. Sadly, Brooks’ aggression worked against his team as the Warriors won Game Four.
Memphis committed more fouls, and the Warriors earned more rebounds for the fourth consecutive game. Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson each missed free throws in crunch time. The shot Jackson Jr. hoisted was an unnecessary launch even before Green blocked it. Memphis’ mistakes are piling up in this series, and they don’t have much time to fix them before Game Five.
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