The NBA semifinals are looking good for Golden State, but don’t count out Memphis just yet


Steph Curry and co. are up 2-1 against a Grizzlies roster without Ja Morant.

Steph Curry and co. are up 2-1 against a Grizzlies roster without Ja Morant.
photo: Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors don’t always need to win. They can hit the right buttons on their good nights and leave the defense huffing on the wrong reads and get lost on StephCurry/Klay Thompson/Jordan Poole moves when Draymond Green is acting.

Close results in Games 1 and 2 in Memphis gave the Grizzlies the confidence they could solve the Golden State equation. In Game 3, Golden State’s offense often resembled a three-card Monte trick. The Grizzlies tried to figure out which Splash Brother was going to go off at any point and were humiliated by all three. Memphis was unnerved by shot handling, ball movement and defensive rotations, and lacked the same energy they exuded at home.

Klay Thompson shot 4 of 6 over the bow to finish the game with 21 points. Jordan Poole Euro kicked his way past countless flat-footed defenders to finish with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Steph Curry kicked 30 of his own, sunk 14 free throws but only made two three-pointers.

Golden State came up with new ways to keep Memphis’ defenses on their toes. The Grizzlies were chased too hard, secured too hard, and found themselves incessantly crawling.

Then, in the closing minutes of regulation, Ja Morant, limping off the ground with a knee injury, was the most troubling harbinger of Memphis’ Game 4 prospects. It’s a perfect time to think the Warriors are rolling to a Western Conference Finals but Golden State needs to realize that Memphis may come out with a card up their sleeve in Game 4.

Golden State can’t let his focus wander. The most dangerous animal you can encounter is an injured one. Memphis has shown the backbone can recover from big in-game deficits all season long. It bounced back to win throughout the regular season without Ja Morant, posting a record of 20-5 in games he sat.

We’ve seen Golden State fumble for control of any series or games it had in hand. There’s a fine line between Steve Kerr’s synchronous movement offense and the chaos that roiled Memphis in the first half. Golden State shot 70 percent from the field but almost tripped over his feet by committing 14 turnovers.

No one shares the rock like Golden State, whose 29.4 assists per game in the postseason ranks first among playoff teams by a significant margin. From 2015 through 2019, it led the league in assists per game every postseason except for 2017, when it finished second to New Orleans. When Kerr joined the Warriors, he pursued 300 passes per game as a barometer for the offensive. Sometimes they take this lesson too far and overtaking becomes their petty offence. As the Warriors begin to overwhelm themselves, the ball turns into a live grenade that they can’t wait to throw back at the opposing team.

A Game 4 at home with a chance to take a 3-1 lead is the perfect time for Golden State to get comfortable. Golden State will have almost all of his talent available provided Green doesn’t earn a stupid tech, but Memphis is bringing Dillon Brooks back into the herd. Brooks has only eight points in this series, but he’s also fresh, energized and ready to burst at the seams to make up for lost time.

Golden State was hot in Game 2, but that streak may depend on whether the team can maintain the same energy for Game 3.

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