Is playing Grizzlies exactly what Warriors need right now? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — Remember the image of Klay Thompson hovering over Dillon Brooks and letting him absolute have it with Brooks falling to the Chase Center floor during the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ Christmas win over the Memphis Grizzlies? Whatever Klay had inside of him and seething out of him in that moment is exactly what the Warriors, sitting at 23-24, need right now.
A Grizzlies return to San Francisco comes at the perfect time, even following a head-shaking loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
“Yeah, for sure,” Steve Kerr said Tuesday after Warriors practice when asked if he can feel a different vibe when the Warriors play a team like the Grizzlies with a growing rivalry. “That can help us. Memphis is on the rise. They’ve got it. Great young team.
“Obviously we had a hell of a series with them last year. So there’s been some, you know, some healthy bickering and a little bit of a rivalry, so it’s fun.”
The Warriors are the defending champions who still are led by 34-year-old Steph Curry, 32-year-old Draymond Green and Thompson at 32 years old as well. They’re trying to prove though they might not be light years ahead, this season’s flickering light still can turn brightest when challenged. In recent history, the Grizzlies have brought the best out of them.
From beating the Grizzlies over six games in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season to sending them home with a 14-point loss on Christmas without Curry and Andrew Wiggins, Memphis brings the best out of the Warriors. The reasons are obvious. The Grizzlies, led by 23-year-old Ja Morant and a handful of others in their early to mid-20s, want to griddy across the Golden Gate Bridge and laugh along the way with the Larry O’Brien trophy.
They’re next. The Warriors believe until proven otherwise on the biggest stage, the top dogs still reside in The Bay. And that’s been part of the story this season, with waves of ups and downs but nothing staying steady.
Trying to find that extra gear, the Warriors brought everything they had in their first contest this season with the Grizzlies. Their energy was felt vibrating from the court to the rafters when they played the Boston Celtics for the first time since the NBA Finals, a 16-point home win following a last-second collapse at the hands of the Utah Jazz. Their Christmas win vs. the Grizzlies started a five-game win streak, all without Curry and Wiggins.
What jumpstarted the Warriors finally being able to stack wins was an attitude. Nothing was left behind. The Warriors grabbed 51 rebounds in their previous matchup with Memphis. At the time, that was second only to the 53 rebounds they finished with in their first battle with Boston. They also had six steals and five blocks.
Every inch of the floor mattered.
“Just the force that is required,” Kerr said Tuesday about what the Warriors can take from their earlier game with the Grizzlies. “When you play against Memphis, there are really a big, athletic team, and everybody’s got to rebound. Everybody’s got to hit bodies. Everybody’s got to dive on the floor for loose balls.
“They’re a big, physical team and beyond. We have to match the energy that they bring.”
Entering Wednesday night’s clash, the Warriors are 8-2 at home against teams with winning records. Their two losses came against the Indiana Pacers, 12-11 at the time and without several top players, and Sunday’s loss to the Nets, who were 28-17 and didn’t have Kevin Durant. Chase Center has been more than home to the Warriors this season. It has been a sanctuary of wins.
But not recently. Including losing a 12-point lead to the Nets in the final six minutes, the Warriors now have lost four straight home games. Those other three losses were at the hands of the 11-win Detroit Pistons, 15-win Orlando Magic and a Phoenix Suns team that was missing six of their top players and were losers of six straight games.
All of those were ugly losses to teams the Warriors didn’t show up for. You can bet that won’t be the case the moment Memphis walks on the court. The Grizzlies have lost three games in a row, and the Warriors would love nothing more than to extend that streak to four straight.
“We have a little history in the last couple years,” Wiggins said Tuesday. “It’s fun. These are the fun games, these are the competitive games, these are the games that bring out all that energy, all the momentum, everything.
“It should be fun.”