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Warriors put Grizzlies to rest, march into Western Conference Finals

True championship DNA doesn’t have an expiration date.

It looked like the Warriors core three had forgotten the lessons they learned from their championships during this second-round series against Memphis.

But with a little nudge — or, actually, a huge push — from their secondary players, Golden State rediscovered their mentality and put away the upstart Grizzlies 110-96 on the way to the Western Conference Finals..

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Chase Center.

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson put Friday’s game on ice like we’ve seen them do for so many years in the playoffs, but two other Warriors put them in the position to close.

Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins were truly the stars Friday. Looney returned to his normal spot in the starting lineup from the regular season and immediately made an impact.

Mike Brown said the decision to start Looney came down to the vets:

It was debated a little bit, but the reality was it was Draymond’s call, Draymond and Steph’s. It’s our job to give our players confidence, and they looked us all in the eye and said, that’s where we are going to get our confidence.”

Looney finished with 22 rebounds, 11 of them coming on the offensive glass and thoroughly by himself outplayed the Grizzlies centers, outrebounding the trio of Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clark.

Looney had 11 rebounds after the first quarter, and said it was his goal to go out and control the glass:

I didn’t know until Wiggs brought it up. ‘Like, you got 11 rebounds already?’ I wasn’t even paying attention. I just wanted to, you know, go after every board. Especially in the beginning of the game, I wanted to set the tone that it was going to be physical. That was my goal at the start of the game, so I got off to a good start.”

Wiggins had 18 and 10, which is essentially right around his series average, but the numbers bely just how impactful he was.

He had a disappointing first half, going 1-of-8 from the field and looking disengaged. But he came up with the biggest moments of his career with a little over five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

First came a massive 3 from the right wing to put the Warriors on top by one, in the midst of a stretch where Jordan Poole, Thompson and Curry couldn’t buy a shot from deep.

Then he hounded Dillon Brooks, who crushed the Warriors for 30 points, into a turnover at the top of the key that Wiggins scooped up and dunked home to put them up three.

And finally, he stoned Brooks again on a drive to the rim, which allowed Green to snatch the rebound and push the ball into a backbreaking Curry 3.

After the whole sequence, the Warriors were up six — the closest the Grizzlies would be for the rest of the game.

Green said he was expecting Wiggins to have a good game after not performing well in Game 5:

He was amazing on both sides of ball. Jones 2-for-12, Jones had been hurting us the last couple games and he took him out of the game, the way he rebounded the basketball, the way he protected the rim, he was absolutely incredible.”

From that point on Curry, Thompson and Green closed it out.

Curry had 29 with a bunch of clutch baskets despite not shooting very well.

And we saw the return of “Game 6 Klay” who went for 30 points, eight rebounds and eight 3’s.

Thompson was reflective after the game when asked if it felt just like it used to:

It felt better. Honestly especially the perspective I’ve gained from the injuries I’ve had to now be able to compete at highest level and be one of the final four teams, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe honestly. It’s truly amazing and it just inspires me to keep going because I think we still have great basketball ahead of me.

The trio scored the final 18 points for the Warriors and put the Grizzlies to sleep.

But they started out the game looking like they weren’t awake.

The shots were falling early, that is whenever they were able to finish possessions with a shot.

Because more often than not, their offensive set ended with bad turnover and the Memphis Grizzlies running the other way.

It’s been comical the number of embarrassing giveaways the Warriors have coughed up this whole series.

The 11 in the first half were bad enough, but it didn’t improve at all when it got closer and closer to clutch time.

Their game, and by extension this series can be summed up in a three-play sequence in the third when Curry threw the ball out of bounds, followed by Green doing the same, and Thompson as well.

The Warriors three veterans, the ones who have been here before and should theoretically know better, the ones with so called “championship DNA” carelessly chucking the ball into the stands.

And through it all, Golden State persevered.

They found their switch, and were able to finally turn it on to advance to the conference finals.

Green reflected on what this trip back to the conference finals means:

I used to take it for granted and just think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Like we’re supposed to make the Western Conference Finals. The reality is, I still think that but I have a much deeper appreciation for it. It’s so hard. Feels like each time it gets tougher and tougher and tougher.”

But if they don’t reign in their turnover issues, that’ll be where their story ends.

For the time being though, they can rest, and celebrate. For now.

Up Next

The Warriors await the winners of the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks now. The two teams will clash Sunday in Game 7, and the conference finals will start after that.

Notes

The Warriors switched their starting lineup Saturday sitting Jonathan Kuminga, who didn’t see the court at all Friday. … Otto Porter Jr. also didn’t see a minute, but his was due to injury as he was ruled out with foot soreness after he didn’t play in the second half of Game 5 either.


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