What we learned as Steph fuels playoff-like win over Grizzlies originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
SAN FRANCISCO — The rivalry is real.
What first looked like an ugly game of Hot Potato and the referees loving the sound of their whistle became an absolute battle between the Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at Chase Center, with the Warriors prevailing 122-120.
Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer with 14 seconds left gave the Warriors a two-point lead. Jordan Poole then beat the clock with a game-winning layup and only one second still on the clock. Chase Center rocked in the latest chapter of the Warriors-Grizzlies rivalry, with the Warriors winning their first two contests with Memphis this season.
Steph Curry scored 21 of his game-high 34 points in the second half. Thompson was right behind with 24 points, and Poole gave Golden State 21. The three of them put the Warriors on their backs when it mattered most, hoping to spark a much-needed win streak.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors improving to 24-24 on the season.
JK Gets The Start
During Steve Kerr’s pregame press conference, the Warriors coach said he simply wanted Jonathan Kuminga to keep doing what he’s been doing — playing with force and confidence. That’s exactly what the 20-year-old did in place of Andrew Wiggins, who was out to another non-COVID illness.
Kuminga played 24 minutes guarding Grizzlies star Ja Morant and scored 13 points while going 5-for-6 from the field, and dished four assists. He was a team-worst minus-16 in plus/minus, faced with a nearly impossible task of chasing around Morant.
When Kuminga has a chance to leap, fans rise out of their seats and the opposing defenses better watch out. Kuminga can soar with ferocity, and he gets up in a hurry.
Teams have to sag off Kuminga when he has the ball or when he’s off the ball in the corner. He’s too much of a threat driving to the hole and he isn’t enough of a knockdown shooter to play tight. Yet. The Grizzlies challenged Kuminga’s corner 3-point shot in the second quarter, and he took advantage of the opening.
If he can become consistent from there, it will be hard to keep Kuminga off the floor no matter how healthy the Warriors are. He’s too valuable defensively not to play, and he continues to rapidly develop offensively.
Fourth Quarter Splash Party
In the Warriors’ last two losses, Curry combined to go 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-6 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Not this time.
Curry was on fire in the fourth quarter, making all three of his shots. That is, until Curry was ejected with the Warriors up 116-114 and only 1:14 remaining in the game after throwing his mouthpiece following an untimely 3-point attempt from Poole.
He wasn’t alone, too. His fellow Splash Brother (Klay Thompson) and Splash Nephew (Jordan Poole) came alive in the fourth as well. The scoring started with Poole.
Through the first three quarters, Poole was held to eight points. He then scored the Warriors’ first nine points in the final frame. Poole wound up scoring 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner.
Then there’s Thompson, who clearly had an extra pep in his step for this one. Klay gave the Warriors eight points and two 3-pointers in the fourth. None was bigger than his shot from him from long range.
Digging Too Many Holes
Within the first 14 seconds, Curry already picked up his first foul of the night. By the time 59 seconds ticked off the clock, Curry was whistled for two fouls. The Warriors in the first quarter alone were called for eight fouls and watched the Grizzlies attempt 11 free throws.
That wasn’t the biggest issue, though. It certainly frustrated the Warriors and their home fans, but that wasn’t as bad as the Warriors handing out turnovers like free samples at Costco.
The Warriors came into the night averaging 16 turnovers per game, second to only the 11-win Houston Rockets (16.2). At the 8:15 mark in the second quarter, the Warriors already had 10 turnovers and the Grizzlies had scored 15 points off them. The Warriors totaled 14 turnovers in the first half, their most in any half at home this season, and they turned into 22 points for the Grizzlies.
Overall, the Warriors with 22 turnovers and the Grizzlies turned them into 29 points. The Warriors have to be thanking the basketball gods that the Grizzlies started out 1-for-12 on 3-pointers, keeping the Warriors in a game they were giving away.
Turnovers aren’t new for the Warriors. Not this season, and not in the past. The problem has to stop, or at least slow down, eventually. These Warriors aren’t good enough to keep giving their opponents so many easy opportunities.
There is still enough firepower on this squad to save the Warriors, as they saw Wednesday night. Making that their routine is a recipe for disaster. The Warriors won four more games in a row the last time they beat the Grizzlies. Cleaning up turnovers and fouls can easily start a win streak once more.