It’s not the first time it’s happened: On the heels of Steph Curry’s emotionally exhausting MVP reception, the Golden State Warriors laid an egg. Dropping Game 2 of their second-round series with the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-90, they looked flummoxed. It was Golden State’s first home loss since the Chicago Bulls beat them there in January.
A lot of their being off had less to do with too many feelings, though, and more to do with how the Grizzlies took to the battle straight to the Warriors’ face.
Speaking of faces, Memphis starting point guard Mike Conley, Jr. returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a facial fracture after a brutal collision against the Portland Trail Blazers, and put in an inspiring performance. With a plastic mask over his blood-red eye and plate-infused tissue, he led his team with 22 points, and his defense on Curry helped hold the MVP to just 19 points on 7-for-19 shooting.
Tony Allen, the Grizzlies’ ceaseless Grindfather, did his part by injecting swagger into the visiting team’s efforts. The day before the contest, he said Curry’s offensive mastery was “nothing I ain’t never seen before,” and he was quick to remind the world of his own accolades after several important plays last night. “First-team, All-Defense,” he said repeatedly:
Now tied 1-1, this series is a sudden hotbed of intrigue. With personalities this big, stories aren’t lacking — but the one you can expect to hear time and time over is about the state of NBA basketball. The Warriors represent the zenith of its pace-and-space evolution, begat more than a decade ago by Steve Nash and the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns. And Memphis, of course, opposes that with a steely, hard, half-court style that favors post-ups and methodical clock-winding. It’ll be thrilling to see which iteration wins out.
— John Wilmes