SAN FRANCISCO -- The moment the NBA made it official over the summer, the Warriors hosting the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center on Christmas was an early gift for all fans. More than any matchup, this is the one people wanted to tune in for following the Western Conference semifinals.
Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins being sidelined certainly put a damper on things. It didn't take the air out of the building, though. Players on both sides brought the kind of energy that was expected from the opening tip, and the Warriors were the better team once again, enjoying a 123-109 win in front of the home fans.
Jordan Poole led the way with 32 points, his sixth 30-point game this season. Donte DiVincenzo's return to the Warriors was vital, scoring 19 points after missing the previous two games to a non-COVID illness. Klay Thompson gave the Warriors 24 points and was willing to do the dirty work with a season-high nine rebounds.
Then there's the Warriors' bench.
Seen as a negative for so much of the season, the second unit stepped up in multiple ways. Ty Jerome had his best game in a Warriors jersey with 14 points, going 6-for-9 from the field and added five rebounds. Jerome was a game-high plus-22. Jonathan Kuminga was a plus-21 with seven points, four rebounds and three assists. Anthony Lamb added 11 points, Moses Moody scored 10 and though James Wiseman didn't score, he was a pus-8 with five rebounds.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors improving to 16-18 on the season, and 13-2 at home.
Poole Sets The Tone
What months ago was supposed to be Steph Curry vs. Ja Morant quickly became the Jordan Poole vs. Morant show. Both a must-watch TV as constant highlight reels. Poole was trhe one who set the tone for the Warriors.
Giving Golden State his latest Curry impersonation, Poole scored 17 of his 32 points in the first quarter. He went 5-for-9 from the field, 3-for-5 from 3-point range and his aggressive play helped him make all four of his free throws. Plus, Poole enjoyed every shot he made on Dillon Brooks.
Poole was held to only three points in the second quarter, but came back alive in the third. Following an ugly final minute of the first half, the Warriors needed a strong third quarter. Poole responded with 12 points and the Warriors led by 15 points going in the fourth.
Overall, Poole scored 32 points while going 11-for-25 from the field, 3-for-10 from beyond the arc and 7-for-8 on free throws and was a plus-6 in plus/minus. After receiving his second technical foul of the game, Poole was ejected at the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter.
Morant scored 36 points with eight assists and seven rebounds, but also had six turnovers, was 2-for-10 on threes and was a minus-6.
Sunday night in San Francisco opened with a Grizzlies alley-oop, followed by a Warriors 3-pointer. That's when we should have known what we were in for, with these two teams' contrasting styles being on full display.
The Warriors are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, leading the league with 16.2 threes per game. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, are in the middle of the pack, ranking 14th with 11.7 threes per game. In the first half alone, the Warriors were five 3-pointers away from hitting their average. They then drained five more in the third quarter.
Math might sound boring on a day filled with opening presents and scarfing down good food, but hey, three points are more than two. And the Warriors with their 18 3-pointers ended with a 27-point advantage from long distance. They went 18-for-44, good for 40 percent, while the Grizzlies only made nine and shot 23.1 percent from there.
Seven different Warriors made a 3-pointer, in a group effort that had Chase Center on its feet.
Game 6 Vibes
In Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, a 134-95 beatdown by the Grizzlies over the Warriors in Memphis, the Warriors were outrebounded by nearly 20 boards -- 55 to 37. That's when Steve Kerr made the move to put Kevon Looney back in the starting lineup. The results? Just 70 rebounds by the Warriors compared to 44 by the Grizzlies, propelling the Dubs back to the conference finals.
Coming into Sunday's slate of games, the Grizzlies led the NBA by averaging 49 rebounds per game. The Warriors were all the way down at 22nd in the rankings, grabbing 42.5 rebounds per game. Knowing how much bigger the Grizzlies are and how physical they try to play, the Warriors knew how much each rebound mattered.
By halftime, the Warriors had a 12-rebound lead -- 31 to 19. The final total was the Warriors coming away with 51 rebounds and the Grizzlies totaling 44. Golden State's seven-rebound advantage went a long way.
Draymond Green, along with 13 assists, led the Warriors with 13 rebounds. Four Warriors had at least five rebounds, and two others were right behind with four rebounds.
From the handful of technical fouls to the Warriors loving every second of talking trash to Brooks to the style of play, this was reminiscent of what we saw between these squads in the playoffs. Let's run it back again. A rivalry is brewing.
Basketball is better for that.