Golden State comes back to beat Memphis, keeps 73-win hopes alive
The victory is the team’s 71st of the season, allowing it the chance to tie the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, and the ability to break the record against these same Grizzlies on the final night of the regular season on Wednesday.
It was a struggle. The undermanned Grizzlies, playing without injured former All-Stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, opened up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter behind opportunistic play from Matt Barnes (who finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds) and some clever feints from reserve guard Xavier Munford.
The defending champs, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a bucket. Three-pointers either open or contested were off, as guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ended the night having missed 19 of 24 looks from long range.
There was even some question as to whether Curry would see minutes in the fourth. Golden State coach Steve Kerr stated that he’d prefer to keep the expected MVP’s minutes down to around 32 in the contest, and Stephen entered the fourth having worked nearly 27. Curry sat almost exactly half the quarter before coming in nearly the six-minute mark, finishing the win with just 17 points on 22 shots.
No, this time the hero down the stretch was do-it-all forward Draymond Green, who came in at the same time as Curry and with the Warriors down eight. He pushed the ball ceaselessly, keeping the Grizzlies’ stout defense on its heels, and scored seven points during his fourth quarter set. A tip-in of a Curry miss with exactly a minute to go gave the score its final mark. Lance Stephenson airballed a desperate jumper on the other end just before the final buzzer.
Perhaps more importantly, it was Green’s killer defense on Memphis low-post stalwart Zach Randolph that helped shape his team’s 71st win. Randolph could not move into position on either block with Green behind him, and finished the night with a 6-19 mark from the floor. Green, meanwhile, finished with 23 points on 10-13 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 35 minutes of typically all-out action.
Playing back-to-back games in Memphis and San Antonio in any situation is a batch of cruel scheduling, but these Warrior players know what they’re after. Still, it’s a bit of a surprise that a lightened Memphis Grizzlies squad – featuring heaps of late-season add-ons that weren’t in the team’s plans last fall – will give Golden State just as much pause as the 65-win Spurs would.