He wasn't the point guard who received the MVP trophy, but on this night Mike Conley was the most valuable player on the court. Returning after missing Memphis' last three games, Conley scored 22 points in 27 minutes as he led the Grizzlies to a 97-90 Game 2 win over the Warriors in Golden State. The loss was the Warriors' first at home in 21 games and evened the second round series at 1-1.
Stephen Curry, who received the league's Most Valuable Player trophy during a pregame ceremony, led the Warriors with 19 points and six assists. But he was just 7-of-19 from the field and connected on only 2-of-11 three-point attempts. The Warriors as a team shot 6-of-26 from behind the arc. They also turned the ball over 20 times while registering just 16 assists.
The Grizzlies got off to a fast start as Conley immediately made his presence felt. He scored nine quick points early in the first quarter and and made life difficult for Curry on the other end of the court.
The Warriors' offense was also hurt by the early exit of Draymond Green, who was forced to leave the game after committing a couple early fouls. David Lee took his place on the court, but his inability to shoot from deep prevented Golden State from spacing the floor the way it normally likes to. The typically high-octane Warriors shot just 37 percent in the first half, with Klay Thompson, who hit just 2-of-9 first half attempts, serving as the main culprit.
Behind their defense, the Grizzlies were able to close the half on a 9-0 run that gave them a 50-39 lead.
Things got worse for Golden State once the second half began. Conley continued to find the paint and Thompson, who scored 13 points on 6-of-15 shooting, continued to play hot potato with the ball and Memphis built up a 16-point lead.
Then, suddenly, the Warriors remembered that the MVP was on the court. The ball finally started making its way into Curry's hands. He responded by pushing the pace and scoring seven quick points. The Warriors' entered the final quarter trailing by 10. The surge occurred with a small lineup, one which included Green at the center position, on the floor.
The fourth quarter brought on much of the same. Golden State slowly pecked away at Memphis' lead but never could come all the way back. The Warriors got within seven with slightly more than three minutes left in the game, but a three-pointer by Conley from the left wing pushed the lead back up to 10. That, it would turn out, would be too much for the Warriors to overcome.
The series is now tied at one. Game 3 will be Saturday night in Memphis.
3 things we learned
Tony Allen has Klay Thompson's number
Thompson had one of his worst games of the season. He was just 6-of-15 from the field, 1-of-6 from deep and generally just looked clueless. Some of the looks he missed were open, but Thompson also had to spend the majority of the game trying to shake Allen. He was not successful. Allen played as well as you can on defense. He forced Thompson into difficult shots and also created turnovers.
Conley was the star of Game 2, but defense is what the Grizzlies used to win. That started with Tony Allen.
The Warriors need Draymond Green to stay out of foul trouble
Not only is Green essential to what Golden State does on defense, with all their switching and pressure, but Green also allows the Warriors to space the floor. He's a power forward who can shoot three pointers, the only one the Warriors have. When he plays, the offense is better. In Game 2 he was forced to the bench early on after committing a couple of quick fouls. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr went with Lee as a replacement. Lee, while talented, can't shoot the way Green can. Did Green's early exit lead to Golden State's slow offensive start, which the team never completely reversed? It's possible.
Draymond Green can guard Marc Gasol in the post
Since the Grizzlies won Marc Gasol's struggles are going to mostly go unnoticed, but his inability to dominate with the smaller Green guarding him is a trend worth paying attention to. Gasol had just 15 points in 31 minutes in Game 2. Whenever the ball was thrown into him in the post he looked hesitant and unsure of what to do. Size and post play is one of the Grizzlies' few advantages in this series. Memphis likes to play two big men -- Gasol and Zach Randolph -- who can both score in the post while Golden State prefers to play the shorter Green at power forward. If the Grizzlies can't take advantage of this mismatch going forward it won't matter how many points Conley score. The Grizzlies' only chance is to win the battle in the paint. That starts with Gasol dominating whenever he's being guarded by Green.