The Golden State Warriors will now make their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since that fateful 2018-19 season that saw both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson go down with extreme injuries in the NBA Finals. In the last two seasons, the Warriors missed the playoffs and then were knocked out of the play-ins by the Memphis Grizzlies last year.
The Warriors got the last laugh over the Grizzlies this time around though, as they completed a 4-2 series victory. Granted, Memphis lost Ja Morant after Game 3, but people must understand that the Grizzlies are an excellent team without their superstar guard. They went 20-5 in the regular season with Morant, and had identical 1-2 records with and without him in this series. One of those losses against the Warriors came after they led Game 4 for over 47 minutes, only blowing it with 45 seconds left in the game. Their lone victory in those three Morant-less games was also a 39-point blowout, where they led by as much as 55 in Game 5.
The 110-96 final scoreline doesn’t tell the full story of the game, though, as the Warriors almost beat themselves again with unnecessary mistakes. Here’s my take on the good and bad things that they did in Game 6.
Turnovers are likely going to decide whether or not the Warriors make the NBA Finals
The Game 6 battle between the two sides was highly competitive throughout the first three quarters. It was a real game of runs, where both sides had an answer to each other and never let the game get out of reach. Through that first 36 minutes, the Warriors showed their Achilles’ heel again, which is their propensity to turn the ball over. The Grizzlies scored 18 points off of the Warriors’ 19 turnovers, and that kept them in the game even when they couldn’t buy a bucket for long stretches. It wasn’t as bad as Game 5, where the Grizzlies scored 29 points off 22 Warriors turnovers, but they’ve got to plug that leak.
A lot of those turnovers were really just bad plays, too. Cross-court passes, attempts to make fancy plays, and some boneheaded decisions while trying to rush the ball up the court are a common theme when watching Warriors games. It’s got nothing to do with their individual skills, as well, because everyone in the starting lineup had at least two turnovers. Golden State feature some of the league’s best ballhandlers and passers – so it’s really coming down to rushed decision making most of the time.
Game 6 Klay is still a thing
Klay Thompson is a shot taker, and a shot maker. When he’s going good, it’s REAL good. He put up another great Game 6 performance, further adding to his legend, by leading the warriors in scoring with 30 points, eight rebounds, and two assists. His first three baskets were all triples in the first quarter, and he never really looked back on the way to finishing 8 of 14 from beyond the arc.
He had some serious shooting struggles earlier in the series, but a player like Thompson simply does not lose his confidence. That’s a valuable trait to have, especially on a jump shooting team like the Warriors, and he rewarded his teammates’ trust by turning it on when they really needed him to score. With Steph Curry shooting 6 of 17 from deep, and Jordan Poole hitting only 2 of 11 threes, they needed every one of those long bombs from Thompson.
To be fair to Curry, the man did hit two huge threes in the final four minutes, which helped keep the Warriors’ lead healthy. Curry finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and two blocks.
Kevon Looney might secretly be Dennis Rodman’s son
Steven Adams ran roughshod over the Warriors in Game 4 and 5 because of his sheer size and strength. The Warriors on their best day don’t have a deep big man rotation, especially with James Wiseman out. However, to counter Adams’ size, acting coach Mike Brown decided to put his faith in Kevon Looney.
Looney had shown a couple of times in the regular season that his tenacity could help contribute to a victory, and that was on full display in Game 6. He finished the game with 22 rebounds and single-handedly had more offensive rebounds (11) than the entire Grizzlies squad (10). In a game where both teams shot under 40% overall, you better believe that those rebounds won them the game.
Looney is essentially one of those perfect role-players, because he doesn’t bitch a lot about not getting minutes, but is ready to play when his number is called. It will be interesting to see if the Warriors elect to start him against the Phoenix Suns to battle against DeAndre Ayton. If the Mavericks make the West Finals, he might not see as much game time, because they Mavericks are similarly size-challenged.
An aggressive Draymond Green will be key to a title
Look, I get it. Draymond Green is surrounded by some of the finest shooters in NBA history. However, it still often bothers me that he rarely looks to score buckets, even when they’re good looks.
Green was not his usually meek self on offense this time around, and he took the chances that were given to him. He made 6 of the 11 two-point field goals that he took (while missing all three attempts from beyond the arc), on the way to finishing with 14 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and a steal. By playing within the flow of the offense, Green helped keep the Memphis defense much more honest. That, in turn, helped open up more passing lanes.
Green had some funny jabs to throw back at Kendrick Perkins, who had criticized his lack of offensive output recently.
Andrew Wiggins remembered how to play basketball in the second half, and they need more of that from him
Another hero from Game 6 was Andrew Wiggins, who had a rough start by shooting 1 of 8 in the first half. Much like the end of the original Space Jam, it felt like he suddenly got his stolen basketball talent back in the second half, as he made 6 of 8 shots, and ended the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and three blocks.
Wiggins may never live up to the expectations that came with the max contract that he signed in Minnesota all those years ago, but it’s a little unfair that he can be the fourth or even fifth option on the floor on offense for Golden State – depending on who their lineup is.
If they play their best, the Warriors can win the title this year
When the Warriors want to turn it on and focus, they are definitely a true contender. That was on show in the fourth quarter. After Desmond Bane had given the Grizzlies the lead at 89-87 with 6:55 left in the game, the Warriors went ballistic. They closed the game out with a 23-7 run, and didn’t turn the ball over a single time in the fourth quarter if you don’t count the shot clock violation with 1.4 seconds left.
They were making the extra pass and their shooters went apeshit. Hell, Draymond even got in an emphatic dunk with 5:04 left in the game. Those efforts carried them over the top and changed the game from a close one into a blowout in the blink of an eye.
The Warriors also had 70 rebounds, the most any team has had this entire season. If they keep this kind of tenacity up, then they’re going to be hard to beat. However, it all needs to start with taking care of the ball. The competition will only get harder from here, so I’m looking forward to seeing what adjustments they make heading into the West Finals.