Warriors: Week In Review, May 10-16, 2021
(originally written 5/17/21)
119-116 win vs. Utah 5/10
122-116 win vs. Phoenix 5/11
125-122 win vs. New Orleans 5/14
113-101 win vs. Memphis 5/16
FINAL RECORD: 39-33, 8th seed in play-in tournament, will face Lakers Wednesday 5/19
The theme for the Golden State Warriors last week? Late surges.
Golden State played four games last week. They won four games last week. Each win required the Dubs to make a late push to come out on top.
In three of the wins (vs. the Jazz, Pelicans and Grizzlies), the Warriors led by double-digits in the 3Q before allowing their opponents to get hot, grab all the momentum, and take late 4Q leads. In the other, the Suns were on the verge of running the Dubs out of the gym before they righted themselves and took control down the stretch.
It's not the ideal way to secure victories, especially with a playoff spot on the line. But years from now, when (insert Bay Area sports personality) hosts a retrospective on the 2020-21 Warriors' charge to the play-in tournament—and hopefully beyond—he/she is not likely to focus on who led with 2:38 to go in the pivotal games.
All that'll matter is who led with 0:00 to go in those games. And that would be that scrappy little team that wears Oakland uniforms despite playing in San Francisco.
Even without injured stars Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, the first-place Utah Jazz have proven to still be capable of beating anybody—they swept a back-to-back against the Nuggets and Rockets in a May 7-8—and were not to be taken lightly by Golden State on May 10.
With their range shooting betraying them early, Golden State built a 54-49 halftime lead with help from some extra bounce in F Draymond Green's step. He executed a spin move on the block and scored with his off-hand in the 1Q, then during a one-minute span in the 2Q Green added a three-point play and a cut-and-SLAM. G Jordan Poole did a little of everything offensively—he shot from deep, he moved without the ball, he pulled up over Rudy frikkin' Gobert, the behemoth Utah center.
The play of F Kent Bazemore and the halfcourt bank shot by Poole highlighted the Warriors 3Q; Golden State carried a 14-point lead into the 4Q. There, Jazz G Jordan Clarkson, normally a reserve, erupted for 24 points, including nine in a one-minute span late in the quarter that gave Utah the 116-114 edge! It was then that Golden State executed an eerily familiar sequence...
With about 20 seconds left, Dubs G Stephen Curry bricked a 3, which was rebounded by F/C Kevon Looney. He cycled it to Green, who found Curry for another 3 attempt from the top of the arc...BULL'S EYE! Right away, I flashed back to the 2015 NBA Playoffs (first round) and F Mo Speights' offensive rebound that led to Curry's dagger 3—over Pelicans F Anthony Davis—that sent Game 3 to overtime. Did you?
The next night, Phoenix came to town minus none of its stars, which made it that much easier to build a 16-point 2Q lead. Suns F Jae Crowder hit all five of his first-half 3 attempts, including four in the 1Q alone. Meanwhile, Curry didn't hit a triple until 9:32 remained in the 3Q. Suns F Devin Booker, who spent parts of this game in a less-than-joyous mood, dropped 22 points in that 3Q alone.
But Golden State, behind the excellence of F Andrew Wiggins (13 of his 38 points in the 4Q) and late, tough shots by Poole (a go-ahead 3 from the Chase Center logo with about 2:00 remaining) and Curry (an off-balance lefty flip to beat the shot clock with :46 remaining) controlled the final 12 minutes en route to victory.
With Curry, Green and Wiggins resting on 5/13 against New Orleans—Wiggins' first missed game of the season—I almost chose not to watch, until remembering I had to for the purpose of this blog. It turned out to be a memorable game, one I catalogued as "Mulder's Uprising". Warriors G Mychal Mulder got the start in this affair, buried seven 3's and set a new career-high with 28 points. Poole wasn't too shabby, either (38 points), and F Juan Toscano-Anderson finished 9-9-9 in the triple-double categories.
Even without their stars, the Warriors received a boost from the return of F Eric Paschall and led at halftime 75-57. Poole went down early in the 3Q with an ankle sprain; it looked serious, but ultimately he missed just under four game minutes as the Warriors struggled to keep New Orleans—namely F Nickeil Alexander-Walker—at bay. A four-minute-plus scoring drought in the 4Q allowed the no-name Pelicans to go in front, but thanks to Paschall's tip with :33 to go and Poole's layup 12 seconds later, Golden State pulled it out.
In the 72nd and final game of the season, Memphis came to town with a very simple game plan: throw the ball to C Jonas Valanciunas and let him dominate with his size, then harass the hell out of Curry with double-teams. It worked for a while; the Grizzlies trailed just 30-29 after the 1Q before their offense went cold (34% shooting, 3-for-13 from deep in the 2nd and 3rd quarters) and the Warriors built an 86-69 lead entering the 4Q.
As was the theme of the week, Memphis roared back. Golden State didn't score for the first 3:10 of the 4Q, and by the 6:47 mark they actually trailed 91-88! (That's a 22-2 run for those of you math-challenged.) Then, Grizzlies F Dillon Brooks, who'd been hounding Curry, fouled out with the score tied at 91. Not by coincidence, the Warriors outscored Memphis 22-10 the rest of the way, including Curry's dagger 3 that put them up 106-97 with 2:12 remaining.
OBSERVATION: With the exception of the New Orleans game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr continued to go with an eight-man rotation, even in the Memphis game with Paschall plus the re-signed Jordan Bell and Gary Payton II available. If Golden State advances past the play-in tournament this week, they'll have next-to-no chance of surviving—let alone thriving—in the playoffs unless at least one of the aforementioned trio gains Kerr's trust.
I do not know exactly why Paschall's playing time dipped even before his hip injury; he was easily the most consistent Warriors scorer off the bench in the season's first half and unlike most of the bench brigade, he actually has other ways to score besides dunks and threes. He's got an effective mid-range, he knows his way around the basket, and his defense is not terrible.
As far as I know, he is not doing Bell-type stuff off the court, either. I honestly don't know why the 2nd-year forward's skillz don't seem to be appreciated all that much by the coaching staff. Paschall does lack the defensive versatility of several other Warriors, but he's hardly terrible. He does fluster easy, as he showed during the New Orleans game when the officiating went against him. But the same people who employ Green can't possibly hold Paschall's emotions against him.
Any ideas or insight? I'd love some.
Curry's 103 points in three games last week wrapped up his second career scoring title (32.0 PPG). More specifically, it was his baseline teardrop (following about 72 dribbles) that officially put runner-up Bradley Beal of Washington in second place to stay.
Though he only needed three points to secure his second scoring title, Warriors G Stephen Curry poured in 46 in the regular-season finale vs. Memphis. He also passed Warriors legend Rick Barry for 70th on the all-time scoring list.
After Beal's unnecessary Twitter attack on Bazemore following the latter's inadvisable, but hardly inflammatory comment about the former's hamstring injury, I'd be happy for Curry's win even if I wasn't a Warriors fan...Beal seems like a mean sort.
Mulder went from 28 points in 34 minutes vs. the Pelicans to zero points in 15 minutes vs. the Grizzlies two days later. (And no, they weren't guarding him like they guarded Curry.) Not ideal, but it still works to an average of 14.0 PPG, which the Warriors would gladly take. Mulder continues to impress me with his hops—his throwdown against New Orleans off the lob from G Nico Mannion is among the Warriors' best since the Andrew Bogut days.
STANDOUT SWAT: My notes from the Memphis game read: "Did Curry just stuff Val(anciunas) inside?" Upon replay, the answer was a resounding yes; 6'3" Curry met the 6'11" Valanciunas uptop as the latter attempted to score inside.
TOP STOPS: As the clock wound down very late in the Utah game, the invigorated Clarkson charged to the hoop with one obvious goal: draw a foul and sink the winning free throws. Well, Looney didn't bite—the Warriors center went up, straight up, and bothered Clarkson enough that he couldn't convert the layup. To the officials' credit, the speed of the play didn't trick them into seeing a foul that wasn't there, and Utah never scored again.
(Honorable mention goes to Bazemore; after turning the ball over late in the 3Q against Memphis, he hustled back on D and was able to break up a Grizzlies lob.)
C'MON, REF: Now, to the officials' discredit...
Paschall had repeat difficulties with them during the Pelicans' game. Already in disagreement with them over a 2Q call, things came to a head when Paschall was whistled for a phantom foul underneath on Pels G Kira Lewis. He barked too loudly this time around and was T'd up.
(Honorable mentions go to two "fouls" called on Green in the 4Q against Memphis. One was overturned upon review, but the other, in which Green appeared to have a clean block inside on Grizzlies C Jaren Jackson Jr., stood and led to two free throws.
NUMBERS: After Booker's 22-point 3Q, Golden State held the Suns star to three points over nine minutes in the 4Q...Poole averaged 23.3 PPG for the week...Paschall finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting over 19 minutes against New Orleans. In that same game, little-used Mannion added 11 points in 32 minutes and even lesser-used C Alen Smailagic added five over 20 minutes...with his 46 points in the season finale, Curry moved into 70th place in NBA history with 18,434. He passed another Warriors legend, Rick Barry...Wiggins could have played in all 72 games this season; he was given the option of playing against New Orleans but opted for rest. He's played every game of a season three times previously...Wiggins' night off meant only five NBA players this season started all 72 games, and only 11 played in all 72 games.
BEST DUB SUB: This time around, Poole was the best of the Warriors' subs. He came off the bench against Utah, Phoenix and Memphis, averaging 18.3 PPG and shooting 10-of-23 from distance. He hit the clutch 3 near the end of the Phoenix game, ended the 2Q against Utah with the 50-foot banker (on the heels of ending the 1Q with a shot-clock-beating 3), and all week displayed moves, handles and creativity we didn't know he had—with the assertiveness and confidence we did know he had.
GRINWORTHY: Far be it from me, a long over-the-hill "athlete", to poke fun at any NBA player. But when the 6'8" (and obviously rusty) Bell couldn't elevate for a dunk in the 4Q, it was not exactly unfunny.
(Honorable mention goes to the commentary between Dubs announcers Bob Fitzgerald and Kelenna Azubuike after Valanciunas steamrolled Green on the block and was whistled for the easiest charge call of the month, let alone week. Azubuike, tongue in cheek: "THAT'S not a foul!")
THE FLURRY: Those five points in one minute by Green in the 1Q against Utah...Wiggins was unstoppable early in the 4Q against Phoenix, nailing a corner 3 to beat the shot clock, driving and slamming HARD—plus the foul—over Suns F Frank Kaminsky, and throwing down a deep lob from Green as Booker napped...Mulder knocked down three early 3's in less than four minutes against New Orleans and had six triples by halftime.
IN THE ZONE (UTAH): Clarkson may have finished with 41 points, but it's not like he got matador treatment at every turn. Both Curry (1Q) and Toscano-Anderson (closing seconds of 2Q) made excellent defensive stops on him, plus of course Looney's game-saver in the final seconds...Bazemore had 19 in this one, including a sweet drive from the corner to the rim around Jazz F Derrick Favors, as well as a spin turnaround J over Jazz G Trent Forrest and a very clever redirect around Clarkson at the three-point line that ended with a fading banker and-1...I was positive Green, who picked up a T in the 3Q, was as good as gone midway through the 4Q when Favors got away with fouling him on a layup. Green, to his credit, didn't explode for once and never got that second T.
IN THE ZONE (PHO): It isn't a week without Toscano-Anderson getting under someone's skin. This time it was Booker in the 2Q; the two "chatted" briefly, JTA received a T soon after, and Booker then shoved him down (receiving an offensive foul)...early in the 3Q, Looney nailed a baseline J, which would normally be a positive thing, except somehow Looney was first to get back on defense as Booker ran it back up the floor at 88 MPH. The result: two Booker free throws...Green enjoyed yet another triple-double, notching two points and one rebound off a high two-hand flush of a Curry miss late in the 3Q...Golden State was only 11-of-40 from deep in this one, but 5-of-12 in the 4Q when it mattered most.
Warriors G Jordan Poole (flanked by teammates Mychal Mulder #15 and Juan Toscano-Anderson #95, plus a trainer) turned his ankle in the 3Q vs. New Orleans, but later returned to a huge ovation from the Chase Center assembly.
IN THE ZONE (NO): It's the little things sometimes. With 9:30 remaining in the 1Q, Toscano-Anderson (who started this game) oh-so-subtly nudged Pelicans G Eric Bledsoe as he ran past him near the arc. That was all Poole needed to get the step on Bledsoe and drive for a slam...In the 4Q, Mannion did something modern-day Warriors almost never do: he passed up an open 3 to go to the hole. Nevermind that he got rejected; I love the thinking...Smailagic drained a catch-and-shoot 3 early in the 4Q...Bell called his own number in the 2Q, but his smooth turnaround banker just rimmed out; he finished 0-for-2 but did nail a free throw in his first NBA action since 4/23 with the Wizards...Poole was ruled to have dribbled out-of-bounds with 2:20 left in the 4Q, but replays showed the ball hitting the foot of Pelicans F Naji Marshall.
IN THE ZONE (MEM): With about 8:30 left in the 1Q, we were treated to an old-school coast-to-coast layup from Green. Two minutes later, he drove, spun and scored lefty, and two minutes after that he charged from the arc to the rim for a thunderous righty jam! Come to think of it, this might have belonged in the "Flurry" section above...Curry barely missed a 65-footer to close the 2Q; he couldn't get off any other 3 attempts in over six minutes that quarter...after his ankle sprain against New Orleans, Poole gave another injury scare when he fell hard on his behind after an early 2Q drive. The second-year rifleman wasn't down long, however...Looney has done a masterful job avoiding foul trouble during this Warriors "Eight Is Enough" period, but he had to sit after collecting his third PF with 6:30 left in the first half.