The Golden State Warriors open up Oracle arena tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. It’ll be a night of (probably) unmatched spectacle and giveaways. I, for one, am going in hopes I’ll get lots of free swag. But when the smoke machines power down and the lasers cool off, they Warriors are going to have to play a game.
And the Grizzlies are a real bear. Get it?
Memphis presents a major challenge for this particular Warriors team, and not just because they’re a perennial playoff squad with young talent across the board. The issue is that the Grizzlies are a matchup nightmare for the Dubs.
Marc Gasol is one of a handful of centers who’s even bigger than Bogut. Whether he’s better is debatable, but size-wise, he’s able to match up with the Aussie. Plus, he can take Bogut away from the basket, which is where the Warriors want their defensive anchor to stay.
Zach Randolph will surgically deconstruct either David Lee or Carl Landry. He does that to everyone, but the Warriors’ pair of power forwards are bad enough defensively that Randolph is probably already slobbering at the thought of tonight’s game.
Rudy Gay is probably Memphis’ fifth-most important starter, but he’s still (especially at this stage) a far superior player to Harrison Barnes or Brandon Rush. And before anyone jumps down my throat for the fifth-best starter crack, go do some research. Scoring wings who don’t shoot all that well are a dime a dozen. Gay is really good, but he’s replaceable. That’s my point, I guess.
Anyway, the guard matchups are the biggest problem. Both Mike Conley and Tony Allen (especially Allen, who is a complete beast on the ball) are going to make Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s night an utter hell. If the Warriors try to pull the same predictable pop-up screen offense as they did against the Suns, Memphis’ attack dogs in the backcourt will eat Klay and Curry alive.
Regardless of the Warriors’ offensive strategy, Allen is going to make it incredibly difficult for Thompson to catch the ball and Conley will really force Curry to prove that he can get around his man—something he didn’t do against the Suns, even though he was being tightly guarded and there was no help coming.
It’s my sincerest hope that the Warriors pull things together after an ugly win in Phoenix. If they manage to beat Memphis, it’ll be a signature early season win—because knocking off the Grizzlies will require the Warriors to show they’re capable of doing things they couldn’t do last year. It’ll take gritty play and smart execution on offense, good coaching and serious work on the boards. None of that was part of the Warriors’ 2011-12 season.
But if the Grizzlies leave Oracle tonight with a win, don’t panic. This is a Memphis team that seems designed specifically to manhandle the Warriors.
Either way, I’ll be happy, as I’ll be in possession of tempered expectations and (hopefully) the aforementioned free swag.