The Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies will battle it out for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs on Friday in what should be an enticing matchup. Stephen Curry and the Warriors hope to wipe the bad taste out of their mouths of losing a close 103-100 play-in game to the Los Angeles Lakers, which cost them a shot at the No. 7 seed in the West. Meanwhile, Memphis is hoping to keep the momentum after ousting the San Antonio Spurs in their first play-in game.
If it weren't for a LeBron James deep 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Warriors might instead be preparing for their first-round matchup against the Phoenix Suns. However, even an eye poke couldn't keep James from knocking down that shot, and here the Warriors are trying to extend their season with a win over the young Grizzlies team hoping to pull off an upset. Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Grizzlies-Warriors play-in game.
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(8) Golden State Warriors vs. (9) Memphis Grizzlies
- When: Friday, May 21 | 9 p.m. ET
- Where: Chase Center -- San Francisco, California
- TV: ESPN | Live Stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: MEM +145; GS -165; O/U 221 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
1. Slowing down Stephen Curry
This one might not actually be possible, but it will be imperative for the Grizzlies to not let Curry go off for 46 points like he did the one time he played them this season, which just so happened to be four days ago. That's where Dillon Brooks comes in. Before fouling out of that game last Sunday between the Warriors and Grizzlies, Brooks was actually doing a decent guard of trying to check Curry. He held him to just 11 points in the nearly six minutes he guarded him throughout the game, and forced him to commit two turnovers in the process.
The issue, though, is Brooks has to stay out of foul trouble. That Warriors game is far from the only time Brooks has found himself struggling to stay on the floor because of fouling. He averaged 3.5 fouls a game, and this is the second consecutive season where he's finished the regular season with the most fouls of any player in the league. Brooks did a great job of stifling DeMar DeRozan during Memphis' last game, but he was also just one foul away from watching the rest of the game on the bench. If the Grizzlies want any chance at containing Curry, Brooks has to stay out of foul trouble while playing aggressive defense.
2. Not playing into Warriors' game
If this game gets into a shootout, Golden State might as well be declared the winner. The Warriors attempt the fifth-most 3s in the league per game (38.7), and are ninth in the league at knocking them down (37.6 percent). At the other end of the spectrum is the Grizzlies, who not only seldom take 3s, ranking 23rd in the league in attempts, but they also rank 20th at making them (35.6 percent).
It can become very easy for Golden State to impose its will on other teams with its high-pace offense and shooting barrage from deep. So it will be incredibly important that the Grizzlies don't play into their game and also try to keep pace with their shooting. Against San Antonio, Memphis shot just 31.8 percent from deep, but it was able to get things going around the rim, most notably Jonas Valanciunas' dominant play down in the paint. Ja Morant was efficient from the field and got his teammates involved, and Brooks was aggressive from mid-range. If the Grizzlies can stick to that game plan, then they should be in this contest at the end.
3. Clash of top-tier defenses
While all eyes may be focused on how Curry and Morant perform on offense, this game is also going to have some gritty defense on both sides. The Warriors have the fifth-best defense in the league, with the Grizzlies are not too far behind at No. 7 this season. The Grizzlies excel at getting deflections and coming up with steals, the latter of which they rank first in the league. The Warriors' excellence on defense stems from Draymond Green's ability to be a disruptor in every way on that end of the floor, whether it's breaking up lob passes, cutting off a lane to the basket or covering up for his teammates' mental lapses by not allowing an easy bucket at the rim. This may be a lower scoring game because of the defense on both sides of this contest, which just means that role players will have to step up more while Curry and Morant are being chased around the floor.