The NBA Playoffs have always been a war of attrition.
Injuries are inevitable when great teams play intense games. The human body can only handle so much.
But this Warriors-Grizzles second-round series has the makings of something even more punishing.
If you have been clamoring for the days of the low-skill, all-guts NBA of the 80s and early 90s — if you think that both pace and space are signs of weakness, this is the modern-day series for you.
It is brutal out there on the hardwood.
And while there is certainly some beauty to be found in the level of physicality Memphis and Golden State are displaying, the truth is that in this war of attrition, there will be no winner.
Instead of calling fouls, these two teams should call a truce, before this becomes a series of mutually assured destruction of both bodies and title chances.
Whichever team advances to the next round will play a Phoenix team that is making easy work of the Dallas Mavericks in their second-round series and will feast on a battered and bruised opponent in the Western Conference Finals.
Is Phoenix a better team than the Warriors (or even the Grizzlies)? There is a debate to be had there.
But a healthy and cruising Suns team is certainly better than whatever edition of the Warriors or Grizzlies will limp into the next round.
The Warriors have taken more of a beating to date, which, in a twisted way, will likely extend this second-round series six or seven games, increasing the likelihood that someone else is sidelined should the Dubs advance.
Gary Payton II is out for in all likelihood the remainder of the postseason with a broken elbow thanks to Dillon Brooks’ flagrant foul in Game 2. Andre Iguodala has a cervical injury that will keep him sidelined at last to Game 5. Draymond Green’s vision is impaired in his right eye, which is swollen and required stitches after an elbow in Game 2. Klay Thompson looks gassed, Steph Curry and Jordan Poole are being battered by the Grizzlies’ interior defense, and even who knows how long it takes the team’s one true center, Kevon Looney, to get out of bed in the morning.
The Grizzlies are taking their licks, too. Ja Morant was poked in the eye in Game 2 and claimed after the contest that he lost his peripheral vision because of the incident. While some skepticism should be applied to his comments, there’s no questioning that must have hurt. Meanwhile, Desmond Bane’s back has tightened up — he played in Game 2 but was a shell of his normal self, scoring only 5 points. After a manic six-game series with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, you know the inexperienced Grizzlies are feeling the first two games of this series, too.
Expect the body count to increase as the series continues.
If blame had to be assigned for why this series has been so physical, so taxing, it would have to be applied to the Grizzlies. Grit-and-grind isn’t just a cool marketing slogan, it’s their way of basketball and they’ve been practicing for years.
Memphis’ roster is built for bumping. It’s filled with dudes that are not just wide, but deep, too. Length might be the top defensive characteristic in this era of perimeter play but thickness matters, too. These Grizzlies have some heft and have no problem throwing it around. The return of the gargantuan Steven Adams, all 7 feet and 260-plus pounds of him, only adds another bruiser — the ultimate batterer — to the mix.
The Warriors have struggled to match that physicality, but they have a few guys who can throw themselves around as well. Green, Looney, and Otto Porter have all played bigger than their listed sizes, but there is a toll to be paid for that.
And while that toll might not be paid over the next week, it will come due.
I’m not sure these Warriors can pay it.
In years past, the Warriors could handle the beating of the playoffs because they were on a different talent level than any other team.
Down Kevin Durant? No problem, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were still around, as was a formidable bench. When the Warriors finally did meet their match in the playoffs, it was five years into the dynasty and they were so banged up that they were playing 6-foot guard Quinn Cook at power forward and giving now-NBA journeyman Alfonzo McKinnie serious minutes. They still nearly forced a Game 7 of the NBA Finals they were convinced they would have won in Toronto, because the Raptors were just as bruised and battered as them.
But this is the second round and this is a team that’s on the level with the league’s best teams, not a level above the rest like in the past.
The Warriors still have tremendous gumption — that championship DNA — but we’re going to find out over the next week if their bodies are as tough as their minds.
Contributed by local news sources