The Memphis Grizzlies kept their postseason hopes alive on Wednesday night with their dominant win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 at FedExForum as they came away with a 134-95 victory. Memphis received contributions from up and down their roster as seven players finished the win having scored in double figures.
With the victory, the Grizzlies avoid elimination and now force a Game 6 in San Francisco to potentially line up a do-or-die Game 7 matchup in Memphis, should they win in California this Friday. Here are the three primary takeaways from Game 5.
1. Not quite the worst blowout in playoff history.
Golden State took itself out of the history books with a 28-15 fourth quarter, but before that, this game had a chance to be historic. The biggest blowout in playoff history was a 58-point win for the 2009 Denver Nuggets over the then-New Orleans Hornets. The Grizzlies led by 55 in the third quarter. Had they pushed for it, they might've won by 60 or 70. We know for a fact that they can. They won a regular-season game by 73 over the Thunder in December.
Let's focus on the competitive portion of the game, which was the first three quarters. At that point, the Grizzlies led by so many points that even if you took away all 17 of their 3-pointers after three quarters, they'd still hold a one-point 68-67 lead. They won the third quarter by a preposterous 25 points. It took them little more than a half to outscore their 98-point total from Game 4. This may not be the worst playoff loss in NBA history, but it's not far off, either.
2. A ball-control masterpiece
The shooting got out of hand in the second half, but if you looked at the percentages in the first, you'd see a relatively close game. The Warriors made 47.4 percent of their first-half field goals. The Grizzlies made 50.9 percent of theirs. The Warriors made 39.1 percent of their first-half 3s. The Grizzlies made 44.4 percent of theirs. Golden State even shot a higher percentage from the line. Typically, you'd see those numbers and expect a relatively close game. As we know, this game was not close. Why? Well, in the first half ...
- The Grizzlies had 10 more offensive rebounds than the Warriors.
- The Warriors had 11 more turnovers than the Grizzlies.
- As a result of those two factors, the Grizzlies attempted 18 more field goals than the Warriors.
It turns out that it's pretty hard to win a basketball game when you never actually have the basketball. To some extent, this was to be expected. The Grizzlies were the NBA's best offensive rebounding team by a mile this season. Golden State's motion and pass-heavy offense bakes turnovers into the equation with the understanding that the Warriors make them up by getting cleaner looks on all of their other possessions. But numbers like those are something else entirely.
Getting Steven Adams back into the rotation clearly seems to have made a difference, and the Warriors, without a shooting big man, aren't punishing him defensively in the same way that Minnesota could. But some of the problem here was just a lethargic night of basketball from the Warriors who likely expected to walk into a win over a depleted opponent. Now they'll have to play Game 6 without Gary Payton II and perhaps Otto Porter Jr. knowing that a loss would force them to play a Game 7 on the road to determine the fate of their season. These are areas the Warriors should lose in, but there's no excuse for the beating they took on Wednesday.
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3. Kerr at the controls
Would you believe me if I told you Warriors interim coach Mike Brown has a 12-1 record filling in for Steve Kerr even after that debacle? That's right, the soon-to-be coach of the Sacramento Kings went undefeated with an 11-0 record filling for Kerr during the 2017 playoffs. He took Game 4 for win No. 12. Finally, in Game 5, he took his first loss, but boy, was it an ugly one.
His Game 4 win was nothing to write home about either. It shouldn't take a double-digit comeback to beat an opponent without its best player on your home floor. But that's the kind of basketball the Warriors have played in their past two games. Sloppy, unfocused and lazy. Stephen Curry bailed them out of Game 4 because he's Stephen Curry. He can do that from time to time. Nothing could have saved them from Game 5's decimation.
Would that loss have come with Kerr at the helm? Probably. No coach is worth 40 points in a single game. But the Warriors haven't looked like the Warriors since their coach caught COVID-19. Getting him back on the bench as soon as possible is paramount here. They're already missing Payton and perhaps Porter. Being without their coach only makes things more difficult.