<
>

Warriors hit with reality in Grind House

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Where better to be reminded of harsh realities than the Grind House? The Memphis Grizzlies live to drag the league's darlings into the mud, uglying that which is adored.

They did it successfully Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors with a 105-98 victory, forcing Stephen Curry into 1-of-10 shooting from 3-point range and ending a 16-game win streak that was the talk of the NBA. Suddenly, the top-of-the-world Warriors have only a game lead for first place, and strange doubts over when their starting center returns.

Before the game, Andrew Bogut, previously out with knee tendinitis, clarified that he had a different diagnosis. Bogut said he has chondromalacia (runner's knee) with edema (swelling).

"It was diagnosed as, should be a three- or four-day thing," he said. "I tried to play Sunday in New Orleans and when I warmed up everything was fine. Soon as I went to load my knee and push off, it was exactly the same as it was in Minnesota. I took four days off and nothing got better. That kind of worried me a little bit. That's why I dug a little deeper and found out it wasn't what we thought it was."

The end of the streak is one thing, as it was inevitable. It's another thing if Bogut's injuries prove to be another inevitability. Golden State is good without him, but with him they're great. Simply put, they need Bogut to be a title contender.

As economist Herbert Stein's famous law dictates, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." It's one of those stupidly self-evident observations, but our feelings fight the obvious. When a team is winning it feels like they'll never lose. The loss, combined with Bogut's comments, are a sobering reminder that there are no easy coronations. It's exceedingly rare to just waltz to and through June.

As for the game, Golden State opened by attacking the fearsome Memphis defense in the sensible way. They got Zach Randolph in pick-and-rolls, hoping he'd resemble a wheelbarrow on cobblestone. Instead, Randolph did his job admirably, jumping out at shooters like a regular wing defender.

"He was there. He did a good job showing," Draymond Green said of Randolph after the game. "We did want to get him in the pick-and-roll because we don't think that's his strong suit. Still don't. But he was great at it tonight, you got to give him some credit for that. He knew that we were going to try to do that and he responded well to us."

In general, the Grizzlies sold out to cover the 3-point line, daring Curry to drive. As Memphis coach Dave Joerger indicated after the game, they made a 3s-for-2s trade-off. Or as Curry explained: "They hard-hedged a lot and tried to just keep bodies around the 3-point line, take that away, and sending help in the paint. I got a lot of layups in the game just trying to turn the corner and get downhill and they were staying with our shooters, and they kind of just relied on Marc to protect the paint in the second half."

Curry had his layups, but also missed a few. The game was called loosely, and contact at the rim was largely accepted.

Other teams would be advised to try this 3s-for-2s scheme against Golden State. One small problem: They need to clone Marc Gasol first. The Memphis center was inexorable on offense and unmoveable on defense. It was a great exhibition for how the Gasol-for-MVP buzz isn't so crazy.

Though the Grizzlies did a fantastic job containing Curry, they inflicted the most damage when he sat in the second quarter.

"They punched us in the mouth to start the second quarter and that was the difference in the game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

It wasn't exactly classic smashmouth Grizzlies as the punches came from 25 feet in the form of Vince Carter 3s. Maybe these were more like the faraway strikes that Dhalsim threw in "Street Fighter."

In any event, Kerr also was intent on bringing his team down from its perch and reminding the players of difficult realities. After the game, he softly admonished, "I love this team, they're competitive, they defend, they pull for each other. But come playoff time you have to execute offensively. You can't have empty possessions, and we had a lot of them tonight. And that's why we have to get better."

It has gone from, "How can the Warriors play any better?" to improvement as an imperative. Such is life in the brutal Western Conference.