Well, well, well. In about as entertaining a game as you could possibly imagine, the Golden State Warriors struck first in their semifinal matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies, eking out a 117-116 road victory.
It was fun. It was dramatic. It was exciting. And most importantly, it was a win.
So let’s grade the players, weighting for our expectations of each.
Note: League-average true-shooting percentage (TS) this season was 56.6%.
17 minutes, 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 5 turnovers, 1 foul, 2-for-3 shooting, 2-for-3 free throws, 69.4% TS, +2
Green was having a pretty excellent game — with the exception of a ton of turnovers — before getting ejected in the second quarter for a Flagrant 2 foul. The Warriors were diplomatic about the call after the game, which makes sense. I would be, too, if the NBA could fine me $50,000 for complaining.
But if you want to know how the team actually felt? Here you go:
I won’t bemoan a Warriors fan who knocks Dray’s grade for the play. Maybe you think it was deserving of a Flagrant 2. Maybe you think he just needs to be more careful, knowing his reputation.
I’m not going to judge him for it. I’ll judge him for the five turnovers, but otherwise he was sensational. But those five turnovers did really hurt, as the Warriors were incredibly sloppy early on.
34 minutes, 17 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 6-for-14 shooting, 1-for-5 threes, 4-for-7 free throws, 49.8% TS, 0 plus/minus
Not a great day at the offensive office for Wiggins, but he deserves a huge amount of credit for the Warriors out-rebounding a much larger Grizzlies team. Wiggins is settling into a role as someone who does the dirty stuff, as he’s been rebounding, hustling, and playing strong defense lately.
Would still love to see him cut more off ball, settle for fewer contested long jumpers, and make more of his free throws. But given the construction of this team, the defense and rebounding are far more important than the shot-making.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in rebounds.
37 minutes, 24 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, 8-for-20 shooting, 5-for-12 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 55.2% TS, -9
This wasn’t Curry’s cleanest game, and that should be the good news. Because the Warriors stole a win regardless. But Steph was huge down the stretch. He had a few timely buckets, and really stepped up his defense — including blocking a Ja Morant layup with 20 seconds remaining and the Dubs clinging to a one-point lead.
It wasn’t his best game, but it was a reminder as to how prepared he is for the moment, and how much he saves this atmosphere. Even with his meh shooting numbers, you still trusted him on every possession down the stretch.
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
31 minutes, 15 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 fouls, 6-for-19 shooting, 3-for-10 threes, 0-for-2 free throws, 37.7% TS, 0 plus/ minus
On the whole, it wasn’t a very good game for Klay. But his game came down to the final possessions.
With 36 seconds left, and the Warriors trailing by two points, Klay had the biggest shot of the game, nailing a three — he was just 2-for-9 prior — to put them ahead for good.
On the Warriors next possession, Thompson was fouled with 6.7 seconds remaining … and missed both free throws.
And on the final play of the game, Klay provided brilliant help defense as Morant missed the game-winning shot.
Three huge plays. One bad, two great.
But the bigger news is that the Warriors won despite the poor shooting. If they can win, on the road, without Dray, when Steph and Klay shoot 14-for-39 from the field? A very good sign.
Gary Payton II
23 minutes, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 4-for-5 shooting, 80.0% TS, +1
GPII moved into the starting lineup and got to guard Morant, which he referred to as “fun” after the game. And he drew the main assignment on the play that sealed the win for the Warriors.
As usual, he provided some brilliant offensive moments when attacking the rim off ball, and also rebounded larger than his size.
And he flew in to keep the ball alive after Klay’s second missed free throw and, had the refs seen the play, it would’ve been the Warriors ball after it went out of bounds.
15 minutes, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, 77.3% TS, -2
Kuminga is likely going to play a few minutes every game in this series, and his athleticism really provided some interesting looks for the Dubs. There’s definitely a cap on how big his role can be, and he runs the risk of getting exposed defensively, but some very nice minutes from him.
Otto Porter Jr.
23 minutes, 2 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 fouls, 1-for-4 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 25.0% TS, +2
Porter continues to struggle with his shot and excel at pretty much everything else. His defense was really good in this game, and his rebounding was absolutely crucial.
Post-game bonus: Tied for the team lead in rebounds.
4 seconds, 0 points, 0 plus/minus
JTA only played four seconds, but they were the final four seconds of the game, as he was tasked with being on the floor for the final defensive possession. That’s pretty cool.
19 minutes, 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 4-for-5 shooting, 80.0% TS, -2
Looney’s probably not going to start again until next regular season, but he could play a big role in this series, especially when Steven Adams returns. He wasn’t slated to play too much in this game, but Green’s ejection forced the issue, and Looney stepped in and stepped up.
3 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover, +3
Lee didn’t get enough playing time to really show anything good or bad, but it was fun seeing him get to be out there in non-garbage time minutes.
38 minutes, 31 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls, 12-for-20 shooting, 5-for-10 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 74.2% TS, +10
Poole returned to the bench for the first time since March 10. And in doing so, he reminded you that the starter/reserve designation isn’t all that important, since he led the team in minutes.
He also led them in pretty much everything else. The Grizzlies had no answer for Poole. Part of that was because they dedicated their time and resources to having an answer for Curry and Thompson, and part of that is because Poole is a bonafide star.
His efficiency isn’t just because he’s catching fire. It’s because he’s incredibly smart with his shot selection (while catching fire). Just look at his shot chart.
And in some exquisite playmaking, and the continuation of his improved defense, and you can only draw one conclusion: Poole is pissed that Morant won Most Improved Player.
Jokes aside, it was a star game from a star player and, despite the Warriors Hall of Fame core, it’s hard to imagine what this team would look like without JP.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points, assists, and plus/minus, tied for the team lead in rebounds.
Sunday’s DNPs: Nemanja Bjelica, Moses Moody
Sunday’s inactives: Andre Iguodala, James Wiseman