It seems like this series has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. There are far too many discussions being held with the words “dirty” in them. And sure there have been a couple of dangerous plays but through this, we’re missing some highly competitive basketball. Golden State jumped out to a 3-1 lead after winning both games on their home floor and can now end it at the FedEx Forum Wednesday night.
Memphis put up a valiant effort in game four, leading the Warriors until the 45.7-second mark of the fourth quarter. And they did this without Ja Morant who’s averaging 38 ppg in the first three games of the series. The Warriors also put up an impressive game three performance that was by far the most convincing win either team has this series. Game five will see the Grizzlies fighting for their playoff lives while the Warriors look to return to the WCF for the first time in four years.
How Golden State can win:
Even with a 3-1 series lead, it feels like we haven’t seen the Warriors at their best at all. In Memphis, they could’ve easily come away with a 2-0 lead if they had shot better than 42% from the field and 18% from three in game two. The greatest three-point shooting backcourt in NBA history, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are shooting a combined 28% from three for the series. Golden State could be playing so much better and yet they still have a stranglehold over the Grizzlies. Game five comes down to their execution. The game plan of excellent synergy with their ball and player movement has worked. Memphis is constantly in rotation on defense and has struggled to handle the Warriors’ quick and smart off-ball cutting. This cutting is rewarded by one Draymond Green who’s dimed up the likes of Poole, Curry, and Thompson for easy baskets. Andrew Wiggins will be an x-factor to watch for game five. He’s slowly played better in this series with his defensive activity, spacing, and rebounding.
How Memphis can win:
For the sake of argument let’s say Ja Morant will play in game five. It’s a must-win game for his team and the injury is minor right knee soreness. The Grizzlies fought without Morant in game four as they’re known to do but it’s clear they need him back. Memphis had little go-to options down the stretch of game four and Morant’s shot-making carried the Grizzlies to their game two win. In areas other than Morant’s star power, Memphis has been minimized where they should be dominating. They’re losing the rebounding category by over 20 boards total. Jaren Jackson Jr is averaging 20 ppg which is a step up from his 16 ppg in the regular season. However, with more attention from Green and Wiggins on defense, his efficiency has dropped from 41% to 36% in the series. Memphis must not only gain back a rebounding advantage and use their size well but also activate Desmond Bane. He was nearly a MIP finalist but Bane has been shut out in this series.
Final Prediction: Grizzlies 109, Warriors 102