MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (22-16)
at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (31-5)
Tip-off: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -13, Total: 215.5
The Grizzlies took down the Warriors at home in December. Is there any way they can do it on the road?
The Grizzlies lost their second straight game on Wednesday night, falling 115-106 to the Clippers in the third game of a four-game California road trip (LAC +1.5). After Thursday’s games, the Grizzlies sit in sixth place in the Western Conference (19-19 ATS), half a game behind the fifth-place Jazz and half a game ahead of the seventh-place Thunder. Before heading back to Tennessee, the Grizz will get perhaps their toughest game yet against a Warriors team eager for revenge. On December 10th, Memphis beat Golden State 110-89 at home in the Warriors’ biggest loss since opening night (MEM +13), a game in which the Dubs trailed by as much as 30 despite not missing any key players. The Warriors are currently on a four-game winning streak, with the most recent victory coming at home against a shorthanded Trail Blazers team, 125-117 (POR +16). Golden State has the NBA’s best record at 31-5 (16-19-1 ATS), which puts them 2.0 games ahead of the Spurs and 3.5 ahead of the Rockets for first place in the West standings. Over the last five seasons, favorites averaging at least 102 points per game are 86-42 ATS against teams allowing between 98 and 102 points per game that have seen at least 215 total points scored in each of their last two games. In the same timeframe, home teams revenging a loss of at least 20 points are 59-27 Over against the total when the total is 210 or higher. Memphis PF JaMychal Green is questionable for Friday night, and Golden State PG Patrick McCaw is probable.
The Grizzlies score only 104.6 points per 100 possessions (22nd in NBA) but are as gritty on defense as their reputation indicates, allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions (third in NBA). The most notable storyline in Memphis this season has been the transformation of C Marc Gasol (19.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG), already an All-Star talent and arguably the best defensive player in the league. At the age of 31—and at 7’1”, 255 pounds—Gasol has gone from never shooting more than 0.2 three-pointers per game in a season to shooting 3.4 per game this year. Incredibly, he’s making 41.1 percent of them, best among NBA centers by a long shot. He is rebounding less due to being on the perimeter more, but remains an elite rim defender. He had 23 points and six assists in the loss to the Clippers. Joining Gasol as a team leader is PG Mike Conley (18.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.2 SPG), who signed the largest contract in NBA history last offseason. He had a season-high 12 assists in that Clippers game, but shot only 5-of-16 from the floor. He has missed 12 games this season with injuries. Zach Randolph (13.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG) comes off the bench now and plays fewer minutes at 35 years old, but is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. At shooting guard, Tony Allen (10.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG) starts as a defensive specialist and Troy Daniels (10.3 PPG, 39.4 3P%) comes off the bench as a three-point specialist.
In terms of efficiency ratings, the Warriors are the best team in the NBA on both offense (116.3 points per 100 possessions) and defense (104 points allowed per 100 possessions). It would have been hard to believe a year ago that, in the midst of the greatest regular season in league history, PG Stephen Curry (24.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.7 SPG) would not even be the focal point of his own offense in 2016-17. His numbers look similar on paper—he leads the league with 335 three-point attempts and is second with 134 made threes—and it would have been unreasonable to expect him to match last year’s astronomical output, anyway. But the team has an entirely different vibe this year; Steph had 35 points for the third time all season on Wednesday night, while he had nine such outings by January fourth last year. The reason for all this, of course, is the addition of SF Kevin Durant (25.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG). While the Warriors haven’t matched their historical start to last season, they are undoubtedly a better team with Durant in the fold. Playing in a star-studded lineup has only amplified his best qualities as a player, as he is 14th in the league in shooting percentage despite taking 17.0 shots per game. (No one with a better shooting percentage takes more than 13.3, and that’s center Hassan Whiteside.) Durant scored 30 points on 16 shots against the Blazers and no one blinked an eye. SG Klay Thompson (21.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and PF Draymond Green (10.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 7.6 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG) continue to do what they do best: scoring and everything, respectively.