SHAFAQNA – The Golden State Warriors arrived in Memphis in possession of the NBA’s best record and a 16-game win streak. All season they had looked like a perfect basketball team, the type that God would design if he were a general manager. The roster is full of shooters who can also create off the dribble. The team’s stars are unselfish. Everyone defends and moves the ball and the team loves to play fast.
And then they ran into the surging Grizzlies, one of the more efficient, but slower teams in the league. The Grizzlies play two big men at the same time and rarely push the ball. They’re polar opposites of the constantly-running Warriors and Tuesday night, in their 105-98 win, Memphis’ style of play won out.
Marc Gasol led the way for the Grizzlies (20-4), who won their fifth straight game and became the first team to beat the Warriors (21-3) since Nov. 11. The Warriors were once again without center Andre Bogut, who missed his fourth straight game with a right knee injury, and Gasol was able to take advantage. He often found himself with shorter players, such as Draymond Green, guarding him and was able to shoot over them and bull his way through them. Gasol scored 24 points on a variety of jump shots and post moves. He also had seven rebounds and five assists. Zach Randolph, who also took advantage of the Warriors decision to play smaller power forwards, added in 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Conley also finished with 17 points and five assists.
But the Grizzlies did most of their damage on the defensive end, where their constant pressure prevented the Warriors, who are sixth in the NBA in offensive rating, from finding clean looks. Golden State connected on just 41 percent of its shots and missed 22 of its 31 three-point attempts. Stephen Curry was held to 9-for-25 shooting and was just 1-for-10 from behind the arc. Curry was chased by Conley the entire game, while the rest of the Grizzlies kept an eye on him, too. Green and Marreese Speights were often left open as a result, and though Speights did score 18 points, neither forward was able to make the Grizzlies pay for this strategy. Green in particular struggled, scoring just four points and going 2-for-11 in 36 minutes.
Klay Thompson was the high scorer for the Warriors with 22 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter when the Warriors erased a 14-point deficit to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 90-88 with 5:09 left in the game. That, though, would be as close Golden State got. Memphis responded with a 7-0 run, and a Mike Conley floater off a pick with 30 seconds left gave the Grizzlies a 101-96 lead.
Three other things we learned
Derek Fisher is starting to lose his patience. Fisher pulled all five of the Knicks‘ starters just seven minutes into Tuesday night’s game against the Mavericks after watching Dallas hit 10 of its first 11 shots. After the game, which the Knicks lost 107-87, at Madison Square Garden, he sounded extra perturbed.
The Knicks are now 5-22. No team in the NBA has lost more games than them (the Sixers have dropped the same amount), and from here on out it’s probably only going to get worse. Iman Shumpert is out three weeks with a dislocated shoulder. J.R. Smith has a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot and no one is sure how long he’ll be out for. And then there’s Carmelo Anthony, who’s been dealing with a bad knee all year. The losses are just going to pile up. How Fisher deals with a 50- (60?) loss season, in New York City, will be interesting to watch.
The Nets are even worse than we thought. Yeah, you always have to be careful about judging teams off of one game, but Tuesday night’s 95-91 loss to the Heat was a really bad one. First off, it was in Brooklyn. Also, Chris Bosh, who has a strained right calf, didn’t play. Neither did Josh McRoberts, who is out for the year. These are the games that the Nets, if they want to make the playoffs, need to win. Right now they’re 10-13, which is good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Obviously none of this matters in the long run, as the Nets have no shot at doing anything substantial once the playoffs actually start. But for a team that might have to swap its first round pick this year, well, making the playoffs is really all the Nets have. Also, failing to do so in the lowly East, especially given the team’s payroll, would be pathetic. And hilarious.
Kevin Durant is almost back to playing at an M.V.P level. Durant scored 26 points and played a season-high 35 minutes Tuesday night in the Thunder’s 104-92 win over the Sacramento Kings. It was Oklahoma City’s seventh straight victory. The team is now just a half-game behind New Orleans for the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings, and with Durant seemingly getting his legs under him after missing the season’s first 17 games with a broken foot, we can expect the Thunder to pass the Pelicans, and perhaps a few other teams, within a few weeks. Also of note: Durant became the second youngest player in NBA history to score 15,000 points. Only LeBron James got there faster. Not a bad night’s work for KD.
Source : http://www.sbnation.com/