Warriors cruise past Grizzlies for 3-2 series lead
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors last advanced to the Western Conference finals 39 years ago.
Thanks to their trademark long-range shooting and suffocating defense, they are one win away from returning.
The Warriors outscored the Grizzlies 42-12 from behind the 3-point arc and limited Memphis to 34.3 percent shooting over the final 39 minutes of the game, which allowed Golden State to overcome a slow start en route to a 98-78 blowout Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Western semifinals.
The one-sided win gave the Warriors a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven and put them in a position to move on to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Houston Rockets with a victory in Game 6 on Friday night in Memphis.
“We would love to win it on the road,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose team won Game 4 in Memphis on Monday. “You always try to get it done when you can. You go get it done. That’s the message. You don’t mess around.”
If a seventh game is necessary, it would be played Sunday in Oakland.
NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry scored 18 points, all on 3-point shots, and the Warriors dominated the Grizzlies from beyond the arc en route to their third double-digit victory of the series.
With four players contributing at least two 3-pointers apiece, the Warriors shot 14-for-30 from long range, easily bettering a struggling Memphis group that went just 4-for-15.
“It’s tough to get outscored by (30) at the 3-point line, so tough night for us,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “They made shots. They played well.”
Behind a quick 17 points from big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies led by as many as 13 in the first quarter. However, after making eight of their first 13 shots, Randolph and Gasol combined to go just 6-for-21 the rest of the way, and Memphis as a team was just 23-for-67 after hitting 10 of its first 16 shots.
“I think I said the first couple of games, our defense was good enough. I was wrong,” Kerr said. “This is what it’s going to take. This kind of defense from tonight and from Game 4.”
The Grizzlies, who stunned the top-seeded Warriors 97-90 in Oakland in Game 2, were playing without defensive whiz Tony Allen, who is nursing a strained left hamstring.
“Everybody was saying we couldn’t score because Tony Allen was on the floor (in previous games), and we put up 78 without him,” Joerger said. “He’s the best. He’s a warrior. I’ll defend the guy to the hilt.”
Memphis led 23-10 in the ninth minute of the game, but the Warriors dominated the final 39 minutes, starting with the final three of the first period.
Curry bombed in three of his six 3-pointers in the final 2:48 of the quarter, igniting a 16-2 flurry that allowed Golden State not only to erase the entire early deficit but to go up 26-25 at period’s end.
“It’s a cool moment,” the Warriors point guard said of the sudden uprising. “To get back into the game and get our crowd into it to end that quarter as strong as we did was important for us.”
The Warriors never trailed again, leading as many as 12 in the second period, 17 in the third and 24 in the fourth.
Not hounded by Allen for the first time in the series, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson poured in a game-high 21 points. He added three 3-pointers in four attempts to Golden State’s barrage from beyond the arc.
Backup swingman Andre Iguodala had a pair of 3-pointers and 16 points in all, and small forward Harrison Barnes added three threes and 14 points.
The Golden State bench, led by Iguodala, contributed big-time to the win, outscoring its counterparts 32-17. Power forward David Lee, pressed into bigger minutes because of an injury to backup center Marreese Speights, provided six points and seven rebounds.
“Their bench has been tremendous,” Joerger said. “Iguodala was plus-23 (the Warriors outscored the Grizzlies by 23 while he was on the floor). Shaun Livingston was plus-21. David Lee was plus-18. That’s a huge boost for them.”
Center Andrew Bogut corralled a team-high nine rebounds, helping Golden State overcome its height disadvantage up front to outrebound the Grizzlies 44-43. Bogut also had a game-high four blocked shots.
Gasol had 18 points and Randolph 13 for Memphis, which has never lost a Western Conference semifinal series. Gasol shot 8-for-22 and Randolph 6-for-12.
Each recorded a double-double, Gasol finishing with a game-high 12 rebounds and Randolph with 10.
“We shot 42 times in the paint. That’s low for us,” Joerger said. “We’d like to do it more. The problem is: There are a lot of people in there, so how do you do that? You’ve got to open up the floor, knock in shots from the perimeter and make them wonder a little bit when they come to double-team.”
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley added 13 points, and small forward Jeff Green, starting in Allen’s place, had 10.
NOTES: The 78 points allowed were the lowest for a Warriors playoff opponent since Game 6 of the 1975 Western Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls. ... Warriors PG Stephen Curry became the first player in NBA playoff history to record six steals and six 3-pointers in the same game. ... The Grizzlies decided SG Tony Allen (strained left hamstring) would be a no-go about an hour before opening tip. ... The Warriors officially ruled C Marreese Speights (strained right calf) out for the series, although coach Steve Kerr said before the game that his backup big man is improving and is a possibility for the next round should the Warriors advance. ... History indicated Game 5 would not go well for the Warriors. They had lost their previous eight consecutive Game 5s dating back to 1987. ... Meanwhile, the Grizzlies saw their five-game winning streak in Game 5s end.