Warriors slog their way to holiday homestand opening win
The shorthanded Warriors looked like anyone else returning home for the holidays Wednesday night: sluggish, lazy and slow to wake up. To borrow the Grizzlies’ moniker — it was a grind.
Golden State (25-6) topped Memphis (9-22), 97-84, in what was probably the Warriors’ most fragmented and lethargic game of the year.
The Warriors finished with a grand total of two fast break points, and that came with just over a minute remaining in the game. And somehow it felt like even less than that. The usually spry Warriors spurned any type of pace for the entirety of the game, content with walking the ball up and running their half court offense.
Head coach Steve Kerr said that it definitely wasn’t any type of strategy for the Warriors to slow it up:
“It had nothing to do with our strategy, it had mostly to do with the fact that guys just didn’t want to run. We were standing constantly on the perimeter, we just never played with the juice and energy it takes if you want to get out and blow the game open. It just seemed like we were just running in mud most of the game,”
Aside from the fast break points, Kerr’s group finished with just seven 3-pointers, which put a topper on the most anti-Warriorsy game of recent memory.
The shorthanded Dubs were bailed out with Klay Thompson erupting for 27 first half points — on 10-of-12 shooting — to basically single-handedly kept the Warriors afloat in a disjointed 24 minutes.
Thompson started by hitting his first nine attempts and what’s more showed his growth using his hot start to find open players out of the double-teams instead of jacking up contested heat checks and doled out three assists. He finished with five assists, matching Jordan Bell for a team high.
Kerr said he’d love to say it’s the growth in Thompson’s game but he had a different take about Thompson’s assists, especially on his find of Omri Casspi for an open layup:
“I’d love to go with that but he was so open that it would have embarrassing if he had shot it. Three guys ran at him and Omri was wide open. He made the right play, let’s just leave it at that.”
But the Grizzlies refused to fade away, or more aptly the Warriors refused to push down the accelerator and pull away.
It didn’t help the situation that after Thompson’s incendiary start to the game he took just one shot in the third quarter and three in the fourth — all misses. And with Kevin Durant having an unusually inefficient scoring night, 22 points on 20 shots, the Warriors were hurting for any type of offense.
Durant said he’s not worried about his shooting numbers, especially with a bunch of his teammates out:
“I’m smart enough to know that, this is what our sixth game without all our guys. Obviously teams aren’t going to just let me play one-on-one or play free or let me do what I want. So I just have to find ways to just be effective. And I missed shots but that’s not the whole basketball game… I don’t expect it to happen next game, but if it does so what? Just got to figure out how to win.”
The only other player in double figures was Casspi, who finished with 12 points and has broken double-figures in each of his last four games.
Casspi said that this system has fueled his offensive outbursts:
“My job is easy, I told you guys before the game, I just got to put the ball in the hoop. Our system is so predicated on movement and cutting and ball movement, and when we do that we are really hard to stop, and sometimes I’m just the finisher. When you cut they’ll pass it and it’s easy.”
Even though their offense stalled, their defense kept the Grizzlies at bay. Memphis shot just 10-of-44 in the second half, an icy 22 percent that doomed any chance of a comeback win.
For once the Warriors were able to out grind the grinders.
The Dubs remain home for the holidays and they won’t play a game on the road until after the new year. They continue their home stretch with a rematch with the Los Angeles Lakers Friday. Rookie Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers ended the Houston Rockets 14-game win streak Wednesday, and look to do the same to the Warriors.
Klay Thompson picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter, which is just the seventh time in his career he’s been T’d up. … The Warriors failed to break 100 points for the first time in the last 12 contests, which was a season-best streak. … Speaking of streaks, their 10th straight win gives them their eighth double-digit win streak in the last five seasons, which is the most double-digit win streaks in any five-season span in NBA history. They also become the fourth team in NBA history to have a double-digit win streak in five consecutive seasons.