GRIZZLIES SNAP WARRIOR’S WIN STREAK
By: Takudzwa Makoni
“They punched us in the mouth to start the second quarter, and that was the difference in the game,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said after his Golden State Warriors 16 game winning streak came to an abrupt end in Memphis on Tuesday night.
After a nip-and-tuck opening segment, the Memphis Grizzlies opened the second quarter with a 20-0 run, and Golden State never fully recovered from the outburst.
Memphis shared the ball, with Marc Gasol putting up twenty four points and Vince Carter putting up a season high sixteen. Mike Conley scored seventeen and big man Zach Randolph had a 17-10 stat line- but perhaps his biggest contribution was his defense in the pick and roll.
Coming into Memphis, Golden State knew that they could never match the Grizzlies mano-a-mano in the paint, especially without injured forward David Lee, and defensive key-stone Andrew Bogut, So far their absence has not been an insurmountable issue, as witnessed to by Golden State’s league-leading record. However, Memphis of course field arguably the most effective 4-5 combination in the league in Gasol and Z-bo, and to have any joy against the stingy Memphis defense, Z-bo would have to be put into high pick and rolls. The big man was superb, hedging hard on the ball-carrier, and trusting Gasol, whose quietly having the best season of his career, to protect the paint.
Memphis effectively chased Golden State’s lethal shooters off the three point line and relied on their interior presence and help defense rotation to corral guys going to the rim. In theory this seems to have worked, as early MVP candidate Steph Curry was held to nine of twenty five shooting from the field, and one of ten from deep.
With the win, the Grizzlies improve their record to twenty wins and four losses, and despite not having a flashy, ‘superstar’ name on their roster, their particular brand of A+ defense from all five positions and Gasol’s late-career transformation into the league’s best Centre, is serving notice that they have every intention of coming out of the West this year.