Two of the top teams in the NBA’s Western Conference are meeting up in the Conference Semifinals. The Golden State Warriors have been resting for a while since they swept the upstart New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs. Point guard Steph Curry was spectacular and so was his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson. The Pelicans stood no chance against Golden State honestly. The Memphis Grizzlies gave the basketball world a little more drama in their series against the Portland Trailblazers. Up 3-0 in the series, the Trailblazers pulled out a game to send the series back to Memphis. But that was where their playoff journey ended as Memphis rose up and finally knocked the Trailblazers out. Along the way to the Grizzlies winning the series, they unfortunately had a big injury occur. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. suffered facial fractures when he collided with Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum in the first round of the playoffs and he had to have surgery to repair the fractures. As far as his outlook for the series, he will be traveling with the team but it is uncertain whether Conley, Jr. will be playing or not. Many expect him to play this series, but there is just no assurances when it will happen. Anything can happen with these two excellent teams doing battle. However, the one thing we can be sure of is there will be a battle of styles between them.
The Golden State Warriors have been a team on the run for most of the season. They are known to pick up the speed when they run their offense and are in perpetual motion at all times. The results of that perpetual motion is usually a wide-open layup or a great play by either Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green. The biggest mismatch if Conley is able to make it on the court will be Draymond Green. The Warriors may be driven by their star guards, but the undersized power forward of the Warriors has been thriving when they have found him trailing the play for those wide-open three-pointers. The tempo allows him to get those type of looks and the more the tempo is pushed, the better he will be. The biggest thing that Memphis can do to stop him is slow the tempo as much as possible. The more they dictate the tempo, the less amount of possessions the Warriors can have to make things happen. But if the Grizzlies are not able to make that happen, then they acquired another option that could come up big in this series. Forward Jeff Green was acquired by the Grizzlies in January. Some envisioned him as the guy that could put Memphis over the top this season. But so far, he has been missing in action in the playoffs. He awakened some in the last game of the Portland series, but he just seemed to be passive and could not buy a shot. In this series, his versatility will be very much needed. Standing at 6’9”, Green can man the power forward position for the Grizzlies as well as play the small forward position. His quickness and length could be something that could both Draymond Green due to him being used to guarding perimeter players. The trade off, however, will be that Memphis will only be able to have one of their big men on the court at that time. And in this situation with their opponent, it could be Zach Randolph as the guy that loses playing time. However it pans out, the Grizzlies have to find a way to either matchup with the Warriors or assert their will on them.
The Grizzlies, unlike the Warriors, have a deliberately slow tempo. And unlike the Warriors, their system is built around inside play. For a few seasons, Memphis has been pounding their opponents into submission while winning at a high rate. And no other player has been the face of that movement other than Zach Randolph. The bruising power forward has been a revelation to Memphis ever since he landed there back in 2009. And in this series, he could be the focal point of the offense. He is undoubtedly more physical than LaMarcus Aldridge, who Golden State played against last series. And to add to it, he has the feathery touch to hit the midrange jump shot as well. His physical abilities along with his work on the offensive boards could cause a guy like Draymond Green some issues in the post. And as a result, there could be some foul trouble in his future. Because of that post mismatch, it will be important for Golden State to pick up the tempo so that Green can take advantage of Randolph at the other end of the court. But if the Warriors are not able to slow down the tempo, then there will be two reserves that could be vital. Power forward David Lee has fought injuries for much of the season. And even when he was playing, he did not get the minutes he was used to as a reserve this season. His role may not be as big as it once was, but this series he could be big in defending Zach Randolph. The bigger body could help keep him off the boards and make things a lot harder for him to score. Another reserve for the Warriors that could be off assistance more is Marreese Speights. Speights made a small albeit important impact on the last series versus the Pelicans and this series he could see more action. He, like David Lee, is a bigger body. And that bigger body could again be something that causes problems for Randolph. The Warriors have to find a way of matching up with the bruising Grizzlies lineup.
The speed of the Warriors versus the power of the Grizzlies. Which one will take over this series and assert their will? It will be fun to see what adjustments each team makes with each game that passes. And ultimately, it will be interesting to see what happens when one team gets hit with a body blow and how they responds. It should be a good series between both teams and ultimately a good test for both teams to see if they are as good as they think they are.