Even after a convincing Game 4 win in Memphis, the Warriors’ loss at Oracle in Game 2 left many concerned at what Golden State would produce upon returning home.
The Warriors erased those concerns Wednesday evening by blowing the doors off the weakened Memphis Grizzlies, rocking Oracle to its core with a 98-78 victory to take a 3-2 series lead.
When the Warriors shoot well from deep, they win. Wednesday night was no exception as Golden State went 14-for-30 from beyond the stripe (46.4 percent).
Golden State also wins when they get contributions from Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. Both were huge in Game 5, with Iguodala scoring 16 points in 25 minutes and Barnes adding 14 while shooting 50 percent from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown.
And let’s not forget about MVP Stephen Curry, who had his best shooting game of the series, going 6-for-13 from beyond the arc on an 18-point night. Curry should be fresh for Game 6 in Memphis, playing only 33 minutes while sitting out nearly the entire fourth quarter.
Klay Thompson finally had his breakout night as well, due in no small part to the absence of Tony Allen, who had pestered the young guard since Game 2 but was held out of Wednesday’s game with a left hamstring injury. After a slow start, Thompson finished with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
The numbers look good for Golden State — especially the score — but as has been the case all series, the Warriors did not play with the same offensive fluidity so common during the regular season. Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr conceded the Memphis defense has continued to muck up the offensive flow, even when the shots are falling:
“The execution offensively hasn’t been good the whole series which says a lot about the team we’re playing against. They’re a great defensive club, and they know what they’re doing. They take a lot of what you do and make you uncomfortable.”
The Warriors’ offense will grab the headlines per usual, but Golden State’s stifling defense was most responsible for the victory. Memphis shot an abysmal 38.5 percent from the floor, with the Warriors holding the Grizzlies under 80 points after David Joerger said the Grizzlies would have to score 100 at some point in the series. Memphis shot 4-for-15 from three-point range.
Joerger knows his team will have to do better if they have any hope of stealing the series:
“We can’t put up two 16‑point quarters and play against a team that can score. You’ve got to be able to score.”
For the second-straight game, Andrew Bogut was a defensive force at the rim, limiting the Grizzlies to 15-for-42 shooting in the paint. 6-foot-7 Draymond Green did a solid job guarding 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol for much of the game, and finished with a game high 9 assists.
Green said he’s starting to learn how to guard both members of the imposing front court:
“You figure out their moves. It’s just like wine. You’re better with time.”
Kerr said the defensive improvements have been the key to the Warriors taking back control of the series:
“I think I said the first couple of games our defense was good enough, but it wasn’t championship defense, and I was wrong. It wasn’t good enough. This is what it’s going to take this kind of defense from tonight and from Game 4.”
The Warriors started slow and Zach Randolph started out hot, knocking down a three at the top of the arch to give the Grizzlies a early 11-4 advantage with 8:22 remaining in the opening frame. Memphis would extend that lead to 10 with just under two minutes left in the quarter.
Then Curry took over.
In arguably the game’s most important stretch, Curry hit three three-pointers in the final three minutes, culminating in a corner trey with 2.5 seconds in the quarter that nearly split Oracle at the seams to give the Warriors a 26-25 lead — a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Kerr was amazed the Warriors were able to finish the first with a lead after the sputtering start:
“Yeah, the first ten minutes were not pretty. The crowd was anxious. I thought we were a little tight. I thought we came out a little nervous. … That was the key stretch of the game in the first quarter. We were down 10, 12, to actually having the lead. I thought it was a miracle having the lead after the first quarter the way that game went. But it was an important stretch. We seemed to get our legs underneath us at that point and that’s when our defense really kicked in.”
Curry finished the half with 15, with only Randolph matching Curry’s five field goals. All of Steph’s makes were from deep.
Andre Iguodala said Steph’s ability to control the tempo has been the key to the offensive improvements in Games 4 and 5:
“I think he’s doing a great job the last two games of knowing when to take over the game. The last two games he hadn’t taken a shot in the first five, six minutes and then he goes on a quick burst. I think tonight the way we started we kind of saw that he needed to get us out of a slump. He made two big shots, and then he got the crowd into it, and he got everybody else energized. That’s just showing maturity, becoming an MVP basketball player.”
After an excellent defensive performance against Randolph in Game 4, Harrison Barnes kept the Warriors afloat to start the game with seven of the Warriors’ first 12 points.
A 10-2 run in the second quarter extended the Warriors lead to nine when a Klay Thompson three forced a Joerger timeout with 3:40 remaining.
As it has been so often this year, the third quarter was where Golden State put the game to bed, outscoring the Grizzlies 25-16. Thompson again provided the exclamation point with a fade away jumper at 2:44 to give the Warriors a 17-point lead.
Marc Gasol lead the Grizzlies in points, rebounds and assists, finishing with 18, 12 and 6 respectively. Randolph had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Warriors will look to close out the series in Game 6 in Memphis on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. PDT.
Wednesday night was the first time since 1967 that the Warriors have held a 3-2 advantage in the Western Conference Semifinals. … Stephen Curry scored 18 points, connecting on six threes, one shy of his postseason career-high. … The Warriors are now 15-19 all-time in Game 5 of any playoff series, winning their first Game 5 since May 3, 1987 at Utah. … Golden State held Memphis to 78 points, the lowest point total for a Warriors opponent in the postseason since the Bulls scored 72 on May 11, 1975 at Chicago in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.