OAKLAND — The Warriors have revolutionized the NBA with their free-flowing offense that centers on teamwork, pace and 3-pointers. Lots of 3-pointers.
Yet, the Warriors secured a 97-84 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at Oracle Arena to mark a season-high 10th consecutive win by offering another identity. They mirrored the Memphis Grizzlies in a grimy, slow-it-down affair that used to be a staple in an earlier NBA era. And as a result, the Warriors became the fourth team in NBA history to have at least one 10-game winning streak in five consecutive seasons, including San Antonio Spurs (2015-16), Boston Celtics (1970-75) and former Seattle Supersonics (1992-97).
“It just says we have lots of talent,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s a good time to be a Warriors fan or a Warriors coach. We’ve got this team that has been growing and growing over the last six or seven years. These last five have been really special seasons. It’s fun to be a part of the growth of the entire group.”
Incidentally, the Warriors (25-6) made history without a significant portion of their group. Warriors guard Stephen Curry missed his sixth consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle. Warriors forward Draymond Green sat out for the fifth time in six games because of a sore right shoulder. Warriors center Zaza Pachulia stayed sidelined for sixth time in the past seven games because of a sore left shoulder. Warriors veteran forwards Andre Iguodala (flu) and veteran guard Shaun Livingston (sore right knee) sat out, too.
Fortunately for the Warriors, they still had Klay Thompson (29 points), Kevin Durant (21) and Omri Casspi (12) compensating elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Warriors, things became more difficult without their best shooter (Curry), best defender (Green), best screen setter (Pachulia) and versatile players whose values go beyond box score contributions (Iguodala, Livingston). It did not help that Memphis (9-22) intentionally slowed the pace down and played physical to compensate for Mike Conley’s ongoing absence with an Achilles injury, a tactic that Durant called “overly aggressive.”
“They do a lot of holding and grabbing,” Thompson said.
That irritated Thompson enough as he had only two points and missed all four of his field-goal attempts in the second half. He also picked up a technical foul with 10:22 left in the fourth quarter after becoming frustrated the officials did not call a whistle on Memphis guard Ben McLemore for slapping his shooting hand. Without the Warriors’ depth to give him more open looks, it became easier for Memphis to target Thompson. It also became easier for the Grizzlies to focus on Durant, who missed all five of his shots in the third quarter.
“A team is not going to let me play one on one and let me do what I want,” Durant said. “I have to find ways to be effective. I missed shots, but that’s not the whole basketball game. I’ll figure it out. I work on my shot enough to know I’ll have some lulls at times.”
The Warriors had plenty of lulls.
The Warriors committed 16 turnovers. The Grizzlies had four players in double figures, including Marc Gasol (21 points), Tyreke Evans (10), Jarell Martin (10) and Mario Chalmers (10). The Warriors scored only two fast-break points.
“It had nothing to do with our strategy. It had mostly to do with the fact that guys didn’t run,” Kerr said. “We were standing constantly on the perimeter. We never played with the juice and energy that it takes if you want to get out and blow the game open. We had our opportunities, but it just seemed like we were running in mud most of the game.”
To get out of that mud, the Warriors could not rely on their normally flashy style.
“Set better screens; cut harder,” Casspi said. “Be stronger with the ball. Make an extra pass because they always rotate.”
And as a result, the Warriors beat the Grizzlies at their own game. Gasol shot only 5-of-15 from the field. The Grizzlies committed 16 turnovers. In the final quarter, the Grizzlies shot 7-of-27 overall (25.9%) and missed their last seven shots.
“We got a lot of depth and plenty of guys who can play. We have enough talent to continue to win. It may not be pretty right now. But we’re doing a good job, especially defensively, and finding ways to score,” Kerr said. “We have to get better for sure. This was not a good performance. I’m happy with the win and I’m happy with the way the guys are competing down the stretch.”