Plucky Grizzlies up next on Warriors' friendly slate
The Golden State Warriors go into the final nine games of the regular season knowing that if they win out, they'll finish with the best record in the Western Conference.
Being that seven of the remaining nine opponents -- beginning with Memphis on Wednesday night -- are currently under .500, a 9-0 sweep looms as a possibility for the two-time defending champs.
The Warriors (50-23) will look for a fifth consecutive win over the Grizzlies when they make their first trip to Memphis this season. The clubs will meet again on the Grizzlies' home floor in the regular-season finale on April 10.
Other than the double-dip with Memphis, the Warriors' remaining schedule consists of Minnesota (3-0), Charlotte (1-0), Denver (2-1), the Los Angeles Lakers (2-1) and Clippers (2-1), Cleveland (1-0) and New Orleans (2-0), teams against which Golden State has gone 13-3.
The cumulative record of Golden State's final nine opponents is .456, giving the Warriors the seventh-easiest finishing schedule in the league.
That didn't seem to matter when the Warriors were blown out on their home floor by Dallas on Saturday night, a drubbing they quickly put in the rear-view mirror with a 121-114 home win over Detroit the next night.
That win was the club's 50th of the season, which not only temporarily pushed them a half-game in front of Denver for the top spot in the West, but also put coach Steve Kerr in some high-rent company. With five straight 50-win seasons to begin his NBA coaching career, Kerr joined Phil Jackson and Pat Riley as the only men to accomplish the feat.
After Sunday's win, Kerr praised his players for caring enough to win regular-seasons games that, for the most part, have been more important to the opponent than to the Warriors.
"You think about what these guys are doing night after night after night, taking everybody's best shot, playing deep into June," he expressed to reporters. "It's hard for anybody to understand what these guys go through physically, emotionally and spiritually just trying to defend the crown. The great thing about this team is they always bounce back because they have so much pride. What they have accomplished is just remarkable."
The Warriors had 16- and 17-point wins over Memphis earlier this season, but both those games were at home.
This time around, the meeting will be in Memphis, where the Grizzlies have wins over Portland, Utah, Houston and Oklahoma City during a stretch in which they've won five of six.
Featuring a new look that includes Bruno Caboclo (first career double-double) and Jonas Valanciunas (fourth straight double-double) up front, the second-worst rebounding team in the NBA (Memphis) dominated the second-best (Oklahoma City) in a 115-103 surprise on Sunday.
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff applauded the effort.
"That's what we've been talking about for a while: Just how hard can guys compete? Can they raise their level of competition when it matter most?" the coach noted to reporters after the win. "Our guys play extremely hard. And when you do that consistently, good things will happen for you."
Another aspect of the Grizzlies' new look is guard Tyler Dorsey, who outplayed Thunder star Russell Westbrook at both ends of the floor, scoring 21 points and limiting the All-Star to 16 on 6-of-20 shooting.
Mike Conley (thigh) and Joakim Noah (knee) both missed the win over Oklahoma City and are day-to-day.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 26, 2019