#1 – Golden State Warriors
With a solid rest and a seemingly clean bill of health in hand, the Warriors have a leg up they didn’t even need on the Grizzlies. They’ll likely see a sub-100 percent Memphis team starting Sunday at home.
The Grizzlies on paper are a tougher matchup than New Orleans, but the Pelicans did a few things to slow down the Warriors offensively that it’s tough to say whether Memphis is capable of replicating. They can’t switch pick-and-roll action as often – Anthony Davis disrupted far more than his fair share of possessions in round one with lockdown perimeter defense in these scenarios, and Memphis has no one like him. Jeff Green might fit the bill in theory, but skills-wise he’s obviously nowhere near the same class and hasn’t looked good recently.
This should buy Golden State a bit more breathing room for their shooters, and it’s bound to be tough sledding for the Griz unless some Warriors get cold for a while. Zach Randolph and especially Marc Gasol are good-to-great defenders, but putting them in screen actions with Steph Curry and Draymond Green is such a tough proposition to guard repeatedly.
Look for the Warriors to charge early and often out of the gate in an attempt to put a hold on the series from the jump.
#5 – Memphis Grizzlies
Simply put, this series seems a true uphill climb for Memphis barring what seems like an unlikely early return to the floor from Mike Conley. His loss would be enough of an issue against anyone, but this particular opponent makes it especially devastating. Golden State’s backcourt combination is lethal, and sans-Conley the Grizzlies will be forced to likely defend Steph Curry with Tony Allen or Courtney Lee – both of whom will do passable jobs, but will take a body away from Klay Thompson and other major threats on the perimeter for the Warriors.
Memphis’ best chance is to lean heavily on their size advantage down low, but even this is a tactic the Warriors likely have an answer for. This could conceivably change to some degree if the Griz are able to have success getting Draymond Green into foul trouble in a couple games, as he’s the lynchpin of the Warriors’ defense and makes everything work on both ends. Look for whichever of Gasol or Randolph draws him as a defender early on to go straight at him and make him earn his spot on the court. It’s tough to imagine him not being up to the task, though.
Otherwise, Memphis likely needs some favorable shooting and similar bounces to give a real challenge to this Warriors team.
Who Wins Game 1?
Golden State is on the offensive early, and takes Game 1 easily.
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