The Warriors led the tired Grizzlies 98-79 at the end of the third quarter at Oracle Arena on Friday, having led by as many as 24 before that point. This was not surprising: Memphis had been on the road since New Years’ Eve and was on its third game in four nights, against 31-6 Golden State who had won 94 of its previous 100 regular season games at Oracle.
A blowout loss by the Grizzlies? That’s not a shocker. An epic comeback by Memphis to send the game to overtime, where Memphis rarely loses? Well, that’s not exactly a shocker either.
Here’s how the Grizzlies did it.
1. The Grizzlies iced the Warriors offense
You’ll never see Golden State miss as much as it did in the fourth quarter on Friday. The Warriors shot 2-of-13 from the field (Stephen Curry hit both of them) and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc. The first of Curry’s shots was a short pull-up jumper with three minutes left, after Memphis cut the deficit to two. A nifty layup a minute and change later also prevented the Grizzlies from getting a chance to tie or lead.
But Curry missed all three triples he tried, including the final shot in regulation: a poorly considered 35-foot bomb that would have melted the internet had he made it. The other two misses were off the dribble and well-contested by the energetic Grizz defense. This isn’t terribly surprising, considering Memphis has the No. 2 defense in the NBA.
Kevin Durant had two open looks he missed and a tough shot he bricked. (We’ll talk about that one momentarily.) The other misses came on open shots from Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and David West, and a tough look from Shaun Livingston.
Say, isn’t there a name missing here?
2. Klay Thompson was invisible
Thompson was the only Warrior to play the entire fourth quarter, though Durant also played most of it. In those 12 minutes, Thompson had one offensive rebound and a pair of missed free throws. That’s it. No shots, no assists, no defensive rebounds, nada.
He did set up teammates for open shots twice, but they ended in misses. It’s inconceivable that a team that goes this cold can’t get a shot for one of the best shooters ever in 12 minutes. It’s worth noting that Green called out Thompson for his inactivity.
3. The Warriors didn’t share the ball
Golden State is one of the most pass-happy teams in the NBA, regularly racking up gaudy assist numbers. The Warriors had no assists in the fourth (with only two makes; that’s to be expected). But a close review of the Warriors’ FGAs reveals that only three of the 13 official shots were set up by the pass. Golden State has talented shot creators like Curry and Durant, but the offense is at its best when it spreads and shares.
This disconnect was obvious during a critical possession that Matt Moore analyzes in depth here. Durant called for the ball with 30 seconds left and the Warriors up two. Curry seemed perturbed; Green was irate. Durant isolated on Zach Randolph and bricked a pull-up three. Green was mad at Durant in the aftermath. But as noted above, Curry was just as guilty of ignoring his teammates, except to call for screens.
Draymond's wild gesticulations through two possessions. pic.twitter.com/S1RTvXGvU8— Andrew Han (@andrewthehan) January 7, 2017
4. Memphis didn’t panic
The Grizzlies’ offense isn’t good. But it got the job done in the fourth, exploiting the Warriors’ misses into a few easy transition buckets, exploiting the size advantage both on the offensive glass and by pulling Zaza Pachulia into action away from the rim (capitalizing on his lack of mobility) and by highlighting Mike Conley.
Conley, by the way, shredded Draymond on the tying shot with 15 seconds left with an ill step-back.
5. Memphis didn’t make mistakes
The Grizzlies had just one turnover in the quarter. (Tony Allen, who was otherwise excellent in the fourth, threw the ball away while falling in crunch time.) Memphis’ size and attentiveness restricted the Warriors to two offensive rebounds in 11 opportunities. The only problem for Memphis in the fourth was that it committed too many fouls, with Zach Randolph picking up four. The Grizzlies were otherwise in full control.
All of that got us into overtime. Memphis had been 4-1 in overtime going into Friday. The Grizzlies and Warriors basically continued what was happening in the fourth in the extra frame, as Golden State stayed cold (3-of-9 shooting) and the Grizzlies were decidedly not (7-of-8 shooting). All of that erased 36 minutes of utter dominance by the Warriors and made Memphis seem that much more magical as we approach the back half of the season.