Since I’ve covered more baseball than any other sport in recent years, I know not to put too much weight on any one game. Granted, the NBA season is only half as long as that of Major League Baseball’s, but still — 82 games is at least a half-marathon if not a full one. The Warriors maybe haven’t been burning it up of late, but trust me, we’re only 25 percent through the season. Sixty-one regular-season games left, folks. Take a chill pill.
Speaking of marathons, they were supposed to have one here in Memphis Saturday, the St. Jude. All the hotels were booked downtown and it was tough to find a room, even three weeks ago. But it was so blasted cold — temperatures have been freezing or below pretty much the whole time since I’ve been here — the race was cancelled. The town was still full of runners, but they were jogging here and there on every street in downtown Memphis. Me, I took the bus to go visit the musical mecca that isSun Studios and get some vibe from the Million Dollar Quartet.
I don’t know where the Warriors got their vibe Saturday night, but after Friday’s debacle in Houston, a 108-82 Grizzly clubbing was cause to put on some Howlin’ Wolf (who actually recorded at Sun before Elvis, Jerry Lee and all those other hillbilly cats). They ended that awful 11-game losing streak to these guys, and you know what? It might have been alarming if they hadn’t.
Memphis is hurting right now. The Grizzlies are without center Marc Gasol (MCL sprain, knee), and it has completely changed who they are — which is to say not very good. Zach Randolph doesn’t have a paint partner to free him up. Mike Conley can’t roam as free as normal when everyone is packed in so tight. Mike Miller doesn’t get as many wide-open looks, although he did get a few in the second quarter and kept Memphis in the game by nailing them. Gracious, has that guy ever MISSED a wide-open three? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it. He can’t do much else, but the dude can tickle the twines.
But with all that other stuff in mind, the Warriors had to beat this team. The Clippers came in here the other night and buried them. So it was incumbent on the Warriors to do the same if they were to maintain their standing as a legit Western Conference contender.
So there you go, GSW Panic Club. They did — in fairly stunning fashion — and you can all exhale out now. Now if they can go to Charlotte Monday and grab another one, the Warriors will be back on a good path. What I liked most about their performance Saturday is that they were obviously chafing over what happened Friday night. Klay Thompson, in particular, looked like he was ready to hit somebody right out of the opening tip. Instead, he hit four straight jumpers, which is two more than he had the whole game in Houston. He finished the night with 30, an impressive atonement for what Mark Jackson called “just a bad night at the office” against the Rockets.
But Thompson wasn’t the only one playing with edge. David Lee woke up from his recent offensive slumber and really got it going. He attacked the hoop and as Jackson said, “was back to the old David Lee. We need that guy and he was awesome tonight.”
Sorry, I’d have to reserve “awesome” for Steph Curry. This was a game where you could truly appreciate the advanced art of Curry, the total player. He didn’t even take a shot in the first quarter, and once he did start taking shots, he missed his first five. But he ran the team magnificently from the outset, set a tone defensively, and showed the qualities beyond shooting that will make him an All-Star this year.
For one, he sucked it up and played 45 straight minutes before coming out, even with his annual Charlotte homecoming coming up on Monday.
“We needed to win and he is our best player,” said Jackson. “We were staying aware of the fact of how he was feeling. He said he was fine so we kept him in there and kept the ball in his hands. That’s what the best players do — they will themselves and their group to big-time wins.”
Jackson said Curry was making “great decisions” and “he didn’t force the issue.” Indeed, he was the picture of calm as he dished eight assists before he finally scored. In the end, he wound up with 22 points, tied his career high in assists with 15 and even had six rebounds. Turnovers? One, and quite frankly, I don’t remember it.
Curry only made two 3-pointers, but they were huge. With Memphis having gotten back to within six at halftime, he effectively knocked the Grizzlies back to double digits with bombs on back-to-back possessions and they never recovered.
And with that second three, Steph made some mean history, too. He is now the all-time Warriors leader in 3-pointers made with 701, passing Jason Richardson. Talk about a record he’s going to take out of the solar system. By the time he’s done at Golden State, his 3-point total is going to look like Rickey Henderson’s stolen base record compared the next guy — which will probably be Thompson if he sticks around for the next few years as well.
In short, it was a solid win despite Memphis’ current shortcomings. Hey, they were without Gasol (as well as guard Tony Allen), but the Warriors continue to be without Andre Iguodala, so let’s not be applying any asterisks to this. They haven’t won here since bloody 2008. So you take it and savor it like steaming plate of succulent Memphis ribs.
On to Charlotte. It’s going to be in the mid-50s there and no marathons are scheduled. Hallelujah.