Source: Scott Strazzante, The San Francisco Chronicle
Two of the Memphis Grizzlies’ final three games of the regular season were against the Golden State Warriors.
Under any circumstances, playing the newly-minted greatest regular season team of all time twice in a three-game span would difficult enough. But with an injury-depleted roster and playoff seeding on the line, the situation was an extra cruel scheduling nightmare for the Grizzlies.
The first matchup between the Grizzlies and Warriors this season took place during the opening week of action. Golden State won in Oracle Arena 119-69, Memphis’ worst loss in franchise history.
Less than 10 days later, the Warriors handed out another beat down, although this time the score remained under 20 as Golden State prevailed in The Grindhouse 100-84.
Both of those games featured a fully-healthy Grizzlies lineup.
With the Suicide Squad in a crisis alert, having lost seven of the last eight and with injuries galore, expectations were low as the Warriors came into The Grindhouse on April 8th looking for a win to stave off the ghost of Dennis Rodman for one more night.
Thanks to a 24 point, 15 rebound night from Matt Barnes and a turn-back-the-clock performance from Vince Carter, the Grizzlies, with no Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, or Tony Allen, and with Xavier Munford helming the point for most of the night, held a 10-point lead on the Warriors in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors of course made the comeback because that’s what they do, although I still think Lance Stephenson was fouled on the last possession of the game, and ended up winning 100-99.
Four days later, the Warriors dismantled the Grizzlies in Oakland 125-104 to set the new NBA record for wins in a season…and no one even watched because it was a foregone conclusion that the Grizzlies would lose plus a certain Kobe Bryant was working miracles in his final outing.
What does this tell us about the Grizzlies’ upcoming first round series with the San Antonio Spurs, who, at 67-15, were just a few games off the Warriors’ record-setting pace themselves?
We know the Grizzlies are going to compete. It’s been their thing all season. They have brought it continuously when all common sense said otherwise. But, this team simply does not have the talent or the bodies to keep up the Spurs.
San Antonio swept the regular season series 4-0 with two wins against a healthy, but pre-trade Grizz squad early in the season (92-82 at San Antonio in late November and 103-83 in Memphis is early December) followed by back-to-back losses in March. Each of which saw LaMarcus Aldridge feast. He dropped 32 and 12 in a 110-104 win at home, and 31 and 13 in a 101-87 victory on the road.
Those four games do not inspire much hope. Plus, playoff Spurs’ basketball is on a different level than regular season Spurs’ basketball, at least based on past seasons. Gregg Popovich will be in full-on basketball wizard mode, Tim Duncan will be taken out of his regular-season cryogenic chamber, and Kawhi Leonard will be fully unleashed on the perimeter. It could get ugly.
Barnes and Lance and Z-Bo and Tony and Vince and Birdman/Grizzilla are all guys who have significant playoff experience and will not give anything less than 150 percent during the playoffs, but when a team is missing its two primary facilitators on offense and two of the rocks of its defensive foundation, that is hard to overcome.
With a first-round exit almost inevitable, I only hope the results are closer to the unbelievably chaotic and exciting one-point loss to the Warriors than they are the 50-point thrashing from that same Warriors team.