The Golden State Warriors were confidently riding high heading into their Game 2 matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Not only was Golden State coming off five consecutive wins to start the playoffs, it entered the game with a 42-2 home record, postseason included.
Adding even more to the inferno that Memphis was heading into Tuesday night, Warriors guard Stephen Curry had just accepted the grand honor of NBA MVP.
Behind one of the most awe-inspiring performance in recent association history by an injured Mike Conley, Memphis went into Oracle Arena and laid the smack down against the league’s MVP and the team that went 67-15 during the regular year.
Playing with what’s pretty much a “broken face,” Conley returned from a 10-day hiatus by scoring 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. “The masked man” or as teammate Tony Allen called him “one-eyed Charlie” set the tone early in this one. He put up nine points in the opening stanza, leading the Grizzlies to a six point lead heading into the second quarter.
A late burst of energy from Memphis in the second quarter pushed the lead to 11 at the half before the underdogs opened up a 16-point lead early in the third.
And while Golden State attempted to make a game of it in the final quarter, it’s clear that Memphis was in control. It dominated the pace of the game, forced a whopping 20 turnovers and held the Warriors to 41.9 percent from the field in the 97-90 win.
Most of the credit for this win has to go to Conley, who changed the entire dynamic of the series in one fell swoop. If Memphis had fallen down 2-0 heading home for Game 3 on Saturday, this series would have pretty much been over. Instead, the seven-game set is tied at one with the Grizzlies on the verge of potentially taking a stranglehold on the outcome.
For the Warriors part, this was one big dumpster fire, and potentially a major wake-up call. Playing his worst game of the season, Klay Thompson shot just 6-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-6 from three-point range. He also turned the ball over five times and finished with a horrendous plus-minus of negative 16.
Thompson’s back court partner in crime, Stephen Curry, didn’t fair much better. The league’s MVP hit on just 7-of-19 shots, including 2-of-11 from three.
It’s not a secret that Golden State needs at least one of its All-Stars to perform at a relatively high level in order to win. That obviously didn’t happen on Tuesday night.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wasn’t thrilled by his team’s overall performance, but he did throw a compliment the Grizzlies way.
Kerr: "They deserved to win. They kicked our butts. They controlled the whole game."
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) May 6, 2015
For the most part, it was a physical game that was controlled by the road team throughout. Golden State is not at its best playing a slower tempo. That’s only magnified when its star-studded back court tandem combines to shoot 13-of-34 from the field.
In addition to Conley’s 22 points, Zach Randolph controlled the block, going for 20 points and seven rebounds.
The series takes a three-day rest before these teams meet up in Memphis on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
Photo: USA Today Sports