Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry Faces Real Test vs Conley and Co


Boasting a 3-0 record, the Golden State Warriors have done well to respond to the criticism and shade thrown to them over the offseason. Despite losing coach Steve Kerr to a back injury, the Warriors have gone from strength to strength and look like the overwhelming favourites to retain their title.

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But if we were to rank it all in order, the most impressive thing is Stephen Curry’s continued excellence. After winning his inaugural MVP award, no one expected the Warriors’ superstar to improve even further. With his game centered on perimeter shooting, there was very little room for the MVP to continue improving. But he worked on his near-basket game and his passing during the offseason, and it’s paid off so far.

Tonight, Curry’s newfound improvement will be put to the test. The Warriors will face the Memphis Grizzlies, who are 2-1. After playing against Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson in the first three games, Mike Conley and Tony Allen will provide a sterner test for the reigning MVP. Last season, the Warriors had trouble dealing with the Grizzlies in the first two games of their second-round series in the Western Conference playoffs. Curry averaged 21.3 points but shot 8-of-29 from three in the first two games, before he rediscovered his groove as the Grizzlies lost Allen to an injury.

The Grizzlies are known to be one of the elite defenses in the league. With a perimeter defensive rotation consisting of Conley, Allen, and Courtney Lee, Curry and Klay Thompson will be up against their toughest matchup of the early season.

It will be interesting to see who the Grizzlies assign to take on Curry – Conley is the natural matchup, but Allen is the more tenacious defender of the two. Allen’s ability to escape screens and stick on his man’s hip could be key in slowing down Curry, as the Warriors always look to the pick-and-roll as a means of creating separation for Curry at the top of the key. However, Conley’s reputation as a defender is nothing to scoff at, either. He is one of the top defensive point guards in the league, and has a high defensive basketball IQ.

The Warriors will be hoping that Klay can shake off his early season malaise and help relieve some of the defensive attention on Curry. He is yet to play more than 28 minutes a game this season due to a niggling back injury, and his play is a far cry from last season’s All-Star performance. It could be a matter of time before we see last season’s Klay return, as he’s getting the same looks he got last season – it’s just a matter of knocking them down.

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The frontcourt matchup will almost certainly favour the Grizzlies, especially if the Warriors’ starting center Andrew Bogut continues to sit out due to a concussion suffered in the second game of the season against the Houston Rockets. The Grizzlies have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph – the most physical big man tandem in the league, and will look to take advantage of the smaller Warriors’ frontcourt of Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli.

This makes the Warriors’ backcourt battle all the more important – win that battle, and the game becomes easier. Tonight’s game will be the Warriors’ first real test (sorry, Houston).