These games are always ugly.
Mark Jackson has led the Golden State Warriors to just one victory in 10 contests against the Memphis Grizzlies during his tenure as head coach. In those nine losses, the Warriors fell short by an average of eight points.
Although Jackson’s tenure has overseen the most successful stretch of Warriors basketball in recent memory, inconsistent defensive performances from Golden State’s big men has played to the strengths of the Memphis frontcourt, helmed by the powerful tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Both Grizzlies’ career splits against the Warriors for points per game and shooting percentage exceed what they have averaged over the last three seasons, according to basketball-reference.com, and their ability to clog the lane and eliminate interior scoring forces Golden State to rely (even more so) on its wing players for offense.
Although the addition of a healthy Andrew Bogut improved Golden State’s ability to protect the rim, Memphis’ ability to field a dual threat on the block with Gasol and Randolph puts an inordinate amount of pressure on power forward David Lee, who lacks the defensive bona fides to handle either Grizzly for long stretches.
It’s a weakness the Grizzlies have exploited in the past. In previous matchups, Memphis would send the ball to whoever was being guarded by Lee, then clear that side of the court, thereby allowing either Gasol (left side) or Randolph (right side) to back their way onto the block for an easy lay-in. In instances where Lee manages to stay in front of his man, both players are capable of creating space and possess the necessary length to hit a mid-range jumper over Lee.
Bogut’s injury-riddled 2012-2013 campaign limited Memphis’ exposure to Golden State’s improved defense last year, and Gasol missed his team’s last matchup against the Dubs with an MCL sprain, when the Warriors limited Memphis to 82 points.
Even so, Bogut’s effect may be overstated. In his last three games against the Warriors, Gasol has outrebounded Andrew Bogut 29-27 while averaging 18.67 points on 53.4 percent shooting. Perhaps most importantly, he held Bogut to just three shot attempts in two of those contests, effectively eliminating Golden State’s lone interior scoring threat.
The Warriors ability to score at the rim will be further diminished without Lee, who is expected to miss tonight’s game with a hamstring strain. Although his likely replacement in the starting lineup, Draymond Green, poses an upgrade defensively, Green lacks the scoring punch offered by the Warriors starter.
Golden State’s history against Memphis, coupled with injuries to Lee and Andre Iguodala, does not bode well for tonight’s matchup. With two of the Warriors starters questionable, expect Memphis to continue its run through the Western Conference.