The atmosphere figures to be tense when the road-challenged Golden State Warriors take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
The two teams just had a testy experience in Memphis when the Grizzlies routed the Warriors 131-110 on March 9. It marked Memphis’ first win in three meetings with Golden State this season.
Golden State’s Draymond Green and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks often have expressed their dislike for each other, magnified by last season’s Western Conference semifinals ithat the Warriors won in six games. The latest matchup featured in-game animosity and postgame barbs and continued for several days.
Brooks was quoted as saying, “I just don’t like Golden State. I don’t like anything to do with them.”
Green’s reply included this shot at Brooks: “If you ever wondered why the Memphis Grizzlies are not ready to compete for the championship, look no further than this idiot right here.”
The Grizzlies share the second-best record (42-27) in the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings and have avoided slippage despite star point guard Ja Morant serving a suspension for detrimental conduct. Memphis is 4-3 entering the eighth and final game of Morant’s punishment.
The Grizzlies also figure to be exuberant after setting a franchise record by recovering from a 29-point, third-quarter deficit on Friday to post a 126-120 overtime victory over the visiting San Antonio Spurs.
The Warriors (36-35) are trying to grab a top-six playoff spot in the West but have lost five of their past seven games. Golden State currently is in the first play-in spot after the Dallas Mavericks used a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night and move into the sixth spot.
The Warriors also possess a horrid 7-28 road record, and Friday’s 127-119 to the Atlanta Hawks was their 10th consecutive away from home.
Still, Golden State coach Steve Kerr continues to expect a turnaround.
“It’s not mental,” Kerr said after the loss to the Hawks. “I think we’re competing. We’re playing pretty well. It’s hard to win on the road in this league. We’re just not getting it done.”
Green missed Friday’s contest due to an automatic one-game suspension for receiving his 16th technical foul on Wednesday during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stephen Curry scored 31 points on 12-of-27 shooting against the Hawks. Two nights earlier, he matched his season high of 50 while sinking 20 of 28 shots against the Clippers.
The game against the Grizzlies is the third of a five-game road excursion for the Warriors. Forward Kevon Looney said the club needs to focus on how it’s playing as opposed to where.
“We’re in these games on the road, we’re playing decent playoff teams, so it’s not easy to win but we still got to figure it out,” Looney said. “We’ve got to be able to push through, we’ve got to be able to win on the road to complete the goal that we want.”
Meanwhile, Memphis played a poor first half before the impressive rally against the Spurs. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said he had nothing to say to his players at halftime.
“We didn’t watch any film,” Jenkins said. “I just opened up the floor to the players to talk and said, ‘What do you got for me?’ Four or five guys spoke up and said it was unacceptable what we were doing in the first half.
“We were too casual, we weren’t communicating, we weren’t executing our coverages, we weren’t playing with physicality, we weren’t trusting the pass.”
Tyus Jones has stood out while filling in for Morant and had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on Friday for his first career triple-double. Jones has reached double digits in assists in four of the seven games Morant has missed.