Mike Conley Changes Warriors-Grizzlies NBA Playoff Series
Point guard Mike Conley isn’t the best player on the Memphis Grizzlies. That would be All-Star center Marc Gasol. But it’s pretty clear that Conley is the most important Grizzlie. He missed Game 1 of the series, an easy Warriors win, with facial fractures suffered in Game 3 of the first-round series against Portland. But Conley was a surprise starter in Game 2 and Memphis pulled out a shocking 97-90 victory, the Warriors’ first loss of these playoffs and only third home loss all season.
The series now takes a few days off, resuming in Memphis for Game 3 on Saturday. The Warriors are 4.5-point favorites with a total of 196. Golden State remains a -750 series favorite at Sportsbook.com with Memphis at +500.
Conley Changed Everything
Conley had 22 points in Game 2 while wearing a mask: “My eyesight was pretty good. I didn’t have too many times where I felt like my vision was impaired by looking too fast or the mask getting in the way. It does get hot. I had to open it up a few times and let the sweat come down and let the steam out a little bit.”
Defensively, Conley’s quickness and judgment recalibrated a top-five-ranked defensive unit that completely swarmed and disrupted the Warriors’ lethal offense. Zach Randolph had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Marc Gasol and Courtney Lee scored 15 points each to help the Grizzlies end Golden State’s 21-game home-winning streak. The Warriors dropped to 42-3 this season at rowdy Oracle Arena. Golden State had not lost at home since a 113-111 overtime defeat to Chicago on Jan. 27. The only other home loss came to San Antonio on Nov. 11.
Conley and Randolph played 64 games together this season (regular season and playoffs combined), but in only three of those games did each reach the 20-point mark. The previous two instances were regular-season wins over the 76ers (December 13) and Suns (January 11).
Memphis Wins With Defense
The Grizzlies got stops by crowding and contesting the shooters. They got them by forming a late wall of defense by the rim. They covered the cutters and denied passing lanes. The Warriors shot 42 percent from the field, 23 percent on 3-pointers, with most of the bricks coming from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who shot a combined 3-for-17 on 3s. Tony Allen did an amazing job on Thompson, who not only struggled through 6 of 15 shooting with Allen shadowing him all night but Thompson also committed five turnovers. The Warriors’ starting shooting guard was flustered all of Game 2 because of Allen’s ball-hawking. Golden State was held below 40 points in the first half for just the second time this season and shot 41.9 percent for the game.
Golden State had been 44-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points. Everything was a slog for the Warriors, who fumbled passes, missed easy shots and shot an extremely un-Warrior-like 6-of-26 from three-point range. The Grizzlies went 1-1 against the Warriors in Memphis.
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