Sometimes, the biggest adjustment is simple: Stop giving the ball to the other team.
After a season-high 14 first-half giveaways, the Warriors in the second half Saturday started taking care of the ball, and with it, control of the series 2-1 with a 142-112 blowout win.
After a parade of turnovers from Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Jonathon Kuminga— who got the start — before halftime, Golden State committed just three turnovers in the second half and finally let their offense take over the game. Curry led the way with 30 points, even though he shot just 2-of-8 from 3.
Green said that it didn’t matter how good they were shooting if they couldn’t stop turning the ball over:
It was a matter of stop turning the ball over. We turned the ball over a lot, first half, 14 turnovers. Three turnovers in the second half. We’ve always believed that we’re a very good shooting team but if you’re not getting looks at the rim, doesn’t matter.”
Curry also didn’t make his first shot until 1.7 seconds left in the first quarter. His final line is solid, but it was a game of ups and downs for the two-time MVP.
His shot wasn’t falling, and Green was visibly frustrated with him going into the locker room at halftime. Green got called for back-to-back offensive fouls where Curry kept pounding the ball in place as Green tried to wait patiently as the screener.
But Curry’s lack of action let the Grizzlies defenders close the space, and made Green’s screen under more of a microscope.
It seemed like those incidents made Curry come out with a different mindset for the second half.
He was much more decisive, attacking the rim immediately, and also eschewing the pick-and-roll for more isolation opportunities. He was rewarded with 14 free throws, which helped the Warriors break open the game.
Steve Kerr said that the team started working to get better shots, and that led to the turnaround:
The shot selection was much improved. We worked harder to get great shots instead of shooting into shot challenges and moved the ball beautifully. After that first half of sort of phrenetic turnovers, we settled down.”
Otto Porter was also a big factor in pushing the lead. He pulled in rebounds, boxed out the Memphis bigs, sprinted around on defense, and actually hit three 3’s as well.
It seems like it’s been ages since Porter has put together any type of shooting performance. He was just 2-of-15 from deep in the playoffs entering the contest and looked like his confidence had fully vanished.
But Porter’s effort on defense and the boards never did, and he’s become the steadying presence for the Warriors whenever he’s on the court.
Andrew Wiggins joined Porter on the glass and Green was quick to compliment the unsung member of the starting five:
That’s what we’ve been asking Wiggs to do all year, for two years, or however long he’s been here. It’s bigger than just dunks. The way he’s been rebounding and the physicality that he’s been playing with, and boxing out. He’s been doing an incredible job no matter who he gets matched up on or boxing out. I saw four or five possessions myself where I’m on the other side and he’s boxing out Tillman and knocking the ball away. So we need him with that mindset. It’s huge for us.”
While Porter is the solid, steady presence, Jordan Poole is the loud, exciting one. Poole played lead initiator for much of the contest, pouring in 27 points of his own.
Poole came off the bench for the second-straight game but continued to score in bunches. He’s averaging 26 points per game in this second round series.
The Grizzlies stuck the usually solid Tyus Jones on him, but he was absolutely no match for the quickness the young Warriors guard possesses. Poole got into the paint whenever he attacked, which was essentially every time he had the ball.
Also, just as importantly, he had just one foul after being in foul trouble for the first two games of the series. He moved his feet well on defense, he even caused Kyle Anderson to get so frustrated after drawing a charge that he got ejected.
And when the Warriors went to a zone in the third quarter, Poole wasn’t able to be hunted by Memphis and Ja Morant like he was in the previous games.
Morant still had 34 points, but his looks were much less open than they were before. He hit four 3’s, but the Warriors never overreacted. They continued to sag off of him on the perimeter, though they started to contest late.
Kerr thought the team’s defense on Morant was key, even though he still got his numbers:
I thought even though Ja had another huge night, I thought we made things tougher on him at the rim. He scored some buckets over some really good verticality plays which we’ll live with. But I thought we just made it tougher on them in general overly tonight defensively.”
He had to work incredibly hard for his looks, and that was before he seemingly tweaked his knee on a late trap in the fourth quarter.
Morant left the game and the court after constantly grabbing at his right knee and looked pretty disheartened on the bench. If the Grizzlies miss their point guard for any amount of time, it looks like a wrap for this series.
And yes, Memphis did go 20-5 without him during the season, but in the playoffs, you need your best player at his absolute best.
Especially when it looks like the Warriors offense have finally snapped into rhythm. After Steve Kerr expressed disappointment with shot selection following Game 2, Golden State’s looks were much more in line with what they want.
And that really starts with Klay Thompson. He put up 19 rushed, heavily contested shots in both the first two games, but took just 13 Saturday. And though a few were of the forced variety, almost all came off passes and Thompson was open.
It’s no coincidence that those shots let him have his best of these playoffs.
Kerr said that when Thompson gets good shots, it sets him up for the difficult ones later:
I just thought in general, he got better shots. We got better shots. When you establish a tone where you get good shots, then the tough ones tend to go in. He had the one-legged three-pointer which was not a good shot but by that time he was comfortable, he was in rhythm and he’s very capable of making those.”
Now the question becomes if the Warriors have truly flipped the switch, or if this was a one-game aberration.
We’ll all find out Monday night, though Warriors fans have to hope it won’t take another turnover barrage to get them straight.
These two teams return to the court Monday at Chase Center for Game 4, and Dillion Brooks will also make a return after his one-game suspension.