Whenever the Memphis Grizzlies come to Oakland, there is a certain expectation that arrives with them.
The Warriors are familiar with it, having faced this team so many times in the recent past. Monday night was no exception, but Golden State (21-10) matched the Grizzlies (16-14), and their defensive presence, cruising to a 110-93 win.
Memphis was missing their engine: Mike Conley, who was unavailable for the game with a left hamstring soreness. Without him, the Grizzlies struggled to score, or even get clean looks against an engaged Warriors defense.
Although the Grizzlies actually shot a higher percentage than the Warriors from the field, but the Warriors held them to just 29 percent from 3 and forced 16 turnovers.
In fact, Jerebko was the only player from either team to hit a 3 in the first quarter. He hit his first three shots from downtown, including a 31-footer to end the first quarter that left everyone in shock.
Durant was quick to heap praise on Jerebko’s entire game, not just his shooting:
“Jonas is much more than just a catch-and-shoot player. He rebounds well, he can drive and make plays, he can pass. When you see him in space, he’s dribbling up the court, finishing in transition, he can shoot the hook shot. I think he’s just playing a great game, as far as surveying and seeing what needs to be done.”
Jerebko finished with 16 points and has now broken double-figures in five of the last seven games.
Ironically, he did so opposite Omri Casspi, who had 20 points for the Grizzlies, but infamously refused to shoot any open 3’s for the Warriors last season before he was waived.
Steve Kerr joked that the Warriors bench production would have been fine last year if Casspi had just shot like he did Monday:
“For whatever reason he didn’t shoot 3’s last year and this year we’ve got some guys who are more willing to shoot.”
He has brought some instant offense and shooting off the bench that this team has not had since Marreese Speights left the Bay Area. Jerebko’s 7.3 points per game is his highest scoring average since 2012 and mirrors almost exactly what Speights (7.1) did his last season for the team.
He also opens up the offense for everyone else when he’s on the court, especially against a smart, tough defensive team like Memphis.
Jerebko said that was a key for him going against the two-big lineup that the Grizzlies play:
“They like to play two big guys, so we really wanted to spread that court and push the pace. They don’t really want to leave the paint so [I was] just trying to create space for my teammates. And if they want to pack the paint I’m going to shoot it.”
The Grizzlies left every Warriors screen-setter wide open all game. That meant Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell finding themselves all alone at the 3-point arc, but with their offensive limitations they couldn’t make the defense pay in a meaningful way.
Looney did have seven points and couple nice moves around the hoop, but opponents will gladly live with that offensive output, as it means limiting the Warriors’ spacing for Curry, Thompson and Durant.
While Bell had himself a rough game, getting stuffed on two dunk attempts — one by the rim and one by Garrett Temple — and missing on a few other bunnies. He did finish a fast break with an and-one dunk but aside from that had a pretty quiet night.
But once Jerebko was inserted into the lineup, the whole dynamic changed. Not only was he getting open 3’s on seemingly every possession but once the defense reacted to him, he would find someone else wide open on the perimeter.
Curry said that it’s helping the team spacing now, but it will really help come playoff time:
“As we go through the season that’s going to be huge for us especially when we get to the playoffs and teams play junk defenses to try and slow us down. Everybody’s got to be a threat out there. … I really started noticing it in Milwaukee, when we were out there and how many open looks there were…And when that happens teams starting having to make decisions and other things start to open up.”
The Warriors also committed just 10 turnovers, limiting the slow-paced Grizzlies possessions even further.
This was also the first time in nearly two months that the Warriors have had a healthy team.
Curry said that having an assortment of different lineups has been the theme of the early season:
“It’s kind of been the story of the season in terms of mixing and matching lineups. Guys go out, guys come back and it’s a revolving door situation. We really haven’t had a consistent stretch with everybody available.”
And while this season certainly hasn’t gone as smoothly as one would have thought, they are finally starting to get back to normalcy.
The Warriors will take a quick one-game road trip to Utah and face the Jazz Wednesday, before they head back to the Bay Area for the next four games.
The big three had a historic night Monday, as Stephen Curry passed the 15,000 career regular season points mark. He is the fifth Warrior in history to reach that mark, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Berry, Paul Arizin and Chris Mullin. Klay Thompson then passed the 11,000 career regular season points mark with his 16. And finally, Kevin Durant finished off the night passing Larry Bird for 33rd place on the all-time scoring list.