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Grizzlies Postgame: Durant, Conley have record-setting nights, but Warriors pull away late

By Updated: March 27, 2019 11:19 PM CT | Published: March 27, 2019 10:36 PM CT

Despite a 15-point final spread, the Grizzlies continued their streak of good homecourt performances against playoff-level opponents. But beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors, at full strength and with something to play for, proved a bridge too far.

The Grizzlies (30-45) built a double-digit first-half lead and clawed back from a double-digit third-quarter deficit to make it a game again, taking a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Warriors’ second wave was a drowning. The Warriors (51-23), still competing to secure the Western Conference’s top playoff seed, closed the game on a 27-11 run to pull away for a 118-103 win. Kevin Durant scored 12 in the fourth quarter, though this run also included his only miss of the game. Durant finished with a 28-9-5 line, his 12 of 13 shooting the best single-game shooting performance (percentage-wise) of one of the NBA’s greatest shooting careers.

Along the way, with a second-quarter corner three, Mike Conley passed Marc Gasol to reclaim his perch atop the franchise scoring leaderboard, his 22 points on the night putting him at 11,700 on his career, to Gasol’s 11,684 as a Grizzly.

Speaking before the game, Conley was unsure how much more he’d play this season, but said he assumed this would not be his homecourt finale. The Grizzlies leave this weekend for a four-game road trip, but will have two more games at FedExForum this season.

Speaking of Gasol, new center Jonas Valanciunas took over the years-long Grizzlies center battle against fellow behemoth DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins.

Early on, Valanciunas handled every defender the Warriors threw at him: Cousins, frontcourt mate Draymond Green, and backup Kevon Looney. Valanciunas scored 14 points in the game’s first nine minutes, on 7-10 shooting, but the early exploits might have made him overaggressive.

Valanciunas shot 5-15 the rest of the way (the Warriors countering with bigger backup center Andrew Bogut in the second half) while picking up 5 fouls and a tech. Valanciunas still led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 13 boards.

On the latter front, he was matched by Bruno Caboclo, whose 13 rebounds added to the Grizzlies' late-season cavalcade of career highs. Caboclo also chipped in 17 points.

But, since half the building came to see the Warriors, let’s give them their due.


BOX SCORE: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors


The Warriors look more vulnerable than at any time during their run, including the year they actually lost in the Finals.

They have less quality depth than ever before. They've logged many hard miles through multiple years of deep playoff runs. And their chemistry seems more strained now.

Bringing their traveling roadshow into FedExForum, they didn’t evince the delight you’d notice earlier in their time together, but rather a kind of churlish defiance that they may still summon to overwhelm all comers in the postseason.

When Steph Curry (28-10-7) and Klay Thompson (an off night at 13 points on 5-12 shooting) are bombing from deep and Durant (28-9-5) is stepping into the most impossibly long, impossibly smooth fadeaways in hoops history, these Golden State Warriors remain a spectacle unique in the annals of the sport, and one that may only have a couple more months to go.

It was a loss for the Grizzlies, but one that was a lot more competitive than the final score indicates.

“Our focus is solely on becoming a better basketball team and being as competitive as we can possibly be,” said coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “I think these games are fun.”

Clip of the Night

Conley’s record-reclaiming jumper:

The Grizzlies had a nice career-overview tribute video ready for the occasion and showed it over the Jumbotron to an ovation, including from Warriors players. 

This puts Conley in pretty sweet company:

The Growth of Bruno's Game

For all of Mike Conley and Jonas Valanciunas’ box-score exploits, the most compelling thing happening on the floor as this Grizzlies season nears its close might be the growth of Bruno Caboclo’s game.

Two nights after the best game of his career, Caboclo probably had the second-best game of his career. (And his second career double-double two nights after his first.)

From the time he arrived in Memphis, Caboclo's tantalized with individual plays, but he rarely strung together long periods of good play. That’s starting to change.

One early three-possession sequence tonight was emblematic of this advance: Driving at former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green and finishing with a finger roll, then stripping Boogie Cousins in the post, then hustling back to grab an offensive rebound.

Offensively, Caboclo scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting, including 3-4 from three, 8 (!) offensive rebounds, and 3 assists. He made a corner three in the first minute of the game, which has emerged as a trend. He set up Chandler Parsons with a nice transition assist. He boarded and converted a Conley miss in one motion and finished another putback with a too-rare halfcourt dunk.

Defensively, Caboclo had a couple of blocks and a steal and ably checked four of five Warriors starters. (Curry was too much to ask and Durant can hit fadeaway jumpers over anyone.) His best defensive possession was a closeout on Klay Thompson, where he cut off the drive, stayed down, and denied the jumper.

What’s changing?

“It’s because of confidence and some freedom,” Bickerstaff said. “He doesn’t feel like he’s being held back. He’s been given an opportunity and we just let him play. He’s allowing his skill set to show … and figuring out where he can operate and the things he’s capable of. Once you see it happen, once he’s able to replay it in his mind, then he knows he can go back to it.”

To Convey or Not to Convey

The Grizzlies’ loss moved them half a game above the New Orleans Pelicans, who are in the 9th pre-lottery spot and into a tie with the Washington Wizards for the 7/8 slots. The Wizards were playing in Phoenix, in a game that started later.

Elements of Style

This mop-up duty possession was a sight to behold in real-time:

Arena Action

Somehow, there were three technical fouls in this game and Boogie Cousins didn’t get any of them.

Durant got one, late in the second quarter, and walked over to scorer’s table to loudly yell at an innocent clipboard, “(BLEEP) me! (BLEEP) me!”

(When a fan good-naturedly chastised him for sending lower-bowl customers to their fainting couches, Durant responded, “I’m at work, big dog. Let me do me.”)

Between Durant's sideline expletives and the S&M roller-skate couple halftime show, this Grizzlies game was pretty NSFW.

Don’t believe that second assessment? Here are some second opinions from trusted local media sources:

On a less uncomfortable in-arena note, the new(ish) local band JCKSN AVE, made up of five sisters, sang the anthem and then performed at halftime (easing our troubled memories of that skate thing).

I’m pretty sure this was a Top 10, maybe Top 5 anthem performance in FedExForum history. They sounded pretty great doing their own song at the half too. Our Elle Perry wrote about the group recently.

The Tweets Were Watching

Hey, I’ve got two kids. Mike Conley’s not the only guy around here who has dad jokes.

Topics

Memphis Grizzlies Mike Conley Bruno Caboclo
Chris Herrington

Chris Herrington

Chris Herrington covers the Memphis Grizzlies and writes about Memphis culture, food, and civic life. He lives in the Vollentine-Evergreen neighborhood of Midtown with his wife, two kids, and two dogs.


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