Can the Rattled Warriors Regain Their Poise?


After a dominant regular season and Round 1, the Golden State Warriors seemed fairly unbeatable. Their play style was embedded with confidence and fluidity that allowed them to dismantle most teams. However, for the first time all season, the Warriors are now facing huge adversity from their toughest foe yet.

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We may hate to admit it, but based on Games 2 and 3, Charles Barkley was right. The Memphis Grizzlies have made the Warriors look like a soft jump shooting team that can be destroyed in the paint. So far, the Warriors haven’t found a solution to their offensive woes that have come to plague them at the worst possible time.

The Warriors only made a dismal 6-of-26 three-pointers in the stunning Game 2 loss at home. Steve Kerr challenged his team to respond in Game 3. He promised that the shots would fall if the Warriors could play with poise, move the ball, and value their possessions. However, the Warriors responded by shooting 6-of-26 from three yet again, and topped off the loss with 17 turnovers to go with only 23 assists. It’s safe to say that the Warriors have looked nothing like their 67-win selves during the last two losses. They’ve played frantically, resulting in poor shot selection and overall horrible decision making on the court. Memphis has been able to impose their will on the Warriors and they haven’t been able to do anything about it.

Game 4 is a must-win situation for Golden State. The Warriors absolutely do not want do be down 3-1 against this Grizzlies team. Despite the unpredictability of these Playoffs, a Game 4 win would ideally swing the momentum towards the Warriors’ favor with their return to Oracle for Game 5. The outcome of Game 4 will determine that either the Warriors are mentally tough enough to overcome a difficult matchup or that they wilt easily under pressure. While easier said than done, Steve Kerr and his staff must make the proper adjustments in order for the Warriors to regain their poise.

May 9, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies beat Golden State Warriors 99-88. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It all starts with Stephen Curry. As the newly-crowned MVP, Steph has to make a large impact in Game 4. When he finds his rhythm, the Warriors offense is flowing and effective. When he’s unable to make his usual shots or even facilitate properly, the offense implodes. The Warriors play right into the Grizzlies’ hands when they begin to rush shots, force passes and telegraph their plays. Memphis’ suffocating defense has visibly affected Curry’s output.

Curry’s body language has shown that simply looks rattled–he hasn’t moved with the same confidence and his displayed hesitation in many instances. The task of freeing himself from the jersey tugs and clutches of Mike Conley and Tony Allen has taken its toll on Curry’s mental and physical endurance. Despite his poor performances of late, it would be foolish to count Curry out for the rest of the series. He has repeatedly demonstrated his fire and determination during the last two post-seasons and throughout this historic regular season. If Kerr can find a way to free him up, Curry can lead the early charge and regain his confidence, and the Warriors’ offense will eventually follow suit.

Due to Memphis’ dictation of the pace, the Warriors are now stagnant and sloppy. Their offense has primarily fueled their defense, but the Warriors haven’t been able to contain the smash mouth duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Once either of them gets proper post position, the Warriors have a hard time preventing a made basket or a trip to the free throw line.

May 9, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) defends Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Kerr’s use of the double team worked during the second half of Game 3. The Warriors were able to make several stops and get out in transition. However, several miscues and poor overall execution stopped the Warriors from mounting a real comeback. They need to look to double team either of the big men and let the Grizzlies, with the exception of Courtney Lee and possibly Conley, beat them from the perimeter. If the Warriors can disrupt Memphis’ primary offensive strategy, they should be able to run down the court for some easier looks. This doesn’t leave much room for error.

For instance, during a late game possession in Game 3, Tony Allen was played tightly with the ball in his hands and Courtney Lee was left wide open from three point range. During an earlier possession, Vince Carter made an easy putback layup with three Warriors in the paint. These simple yet crucial defensive errors contributed to the end result. The Warriors can play to their own strengths by playing small, but they must communicate well on both ends and crash the glass hard.

The Game 4 showdown will be the ultimate test of the Warriors’ mental fortitude. It is probably be too late to experiment with different lineups or a revamped offense. Kerr and his staff must instill a sense of calmness in the team if things don’t go their way. The Warriors were visibly shell shocked in the second quarter of Game 3. They can’t repeat the same mistakes this time around. This means no more over dribbling. No more forced passes. No more defensive lapses. This means crisp ball and player movement.

The team must be mindful of the Grizzlies attempts to stifle the offense, but must simultaneously have belief in their system. Curry and Co. now have the chance to make a statement game and rise above the Grizzlies’ grit and physicality, because if they don’t, the Warriors could find themselves on the outside looking in very soon.

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