#1 – Golden State Warriors
Questions swirled about their ability to handle the grimy game Memphis wanted to steer toward last week, but the last couple games for the Warriors have proven that they’re ready to punch back with authority.
It’s easy to get caught up in their latest offensive explosion, but Golden State’s defense played its best collective game of the postseason thus far in Game 5. Andrew Bogut was only needed for 23 minutes. Back on Zach Randolph with Tony Allen missing the game, Bogut shut down the Grizzlies’ post attack almost completely while on the floor. Draymond Green held his own in mostly no-help situations against Marc Gasol and was a large part of the big Spaniard shooting just 8-22 on the night.
Things are clicking on the other end as well, and this team looks completely unbeatable on these occasions. Stephen Curry hit six three pointers, but they were actually his only makes of the game. It was Klay Thompson, free from the shackles of Allen, along with contributions from Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, who really led the charge. The Warriors shot 50 percent even on uncontested shots for the game.
If they continue to get the kinds of bench contributions they saw Wednesday, their status as big title favorites should never waver again. Iguodala was fantastic on both ends, and both Shaun Livingston and David Lee, resurrected in the last couple games of this series, were great two-way fill-ins as well. The Warriors are erasing doubts about their ability to cope with adversity, adjusting seamlessly the last couple of games and flashing variety and confidence in their scheme.
#5 – Memphis Grizzlies
Allen was absent with an aggravated hamstring, but it’s tough to see how his presence would have altered the final result Wednesday more than just a little. Memphis is better off without him offensively, and no individual defender, even one of the best in the league, was going to stop the onslaught Golden State put forth.
Memphis will need more from Randolph and Marc Gasol, but it’s clear they have limited amounts left in the tank. Both are becoming more erratic with their jumpers as the series has worn on, and the team’s front-court advantage – one the Grizzlies badly need to dominate to have a chance in the series given Golden State’s back-court prowess – was mostly played to a wash in Game 5. The Warriors actually rebounded the higher percentage of their own misses among the two teams, and despite a brief early issue for Green, they weren’t able to bully Golden State’s starters into foul trouble. Even Lee, typically a sub-par defender, held his own in one-on-one match-ups in the post.
When one considers that a hot shooting start in the first quarter Wednesday night actually made the final result closer than the game may have been in reality, it’s hard to see how Memphis takes two consecutive games. They’ll never be able to sustain that kind of run over a full game with the Warriors locked in defensively like this, and they’ll need some gargantuan performances from Randolph or Gasol to have a shot.
Who Wins Game 6?
The Warriors are rolling, and they close out the series in Memphis to move to the Western Conference Finals.
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