Barry: Grizzlies pose inside threat, but Warriors will prevail 

To say the least, I like the Warriors’ chances against the Memphis Grizzlies in Round 2 of the playoffs, especially with point guard Mike Conley likely to sit out at least one of the games and probably more. With the type of serious facial injury he has, a blow to that area could have serious consequences. Team physicians will be very cautious about how they handle the situation.

Even with Conley on the court, the Warriors won two of the three games between the teams in the regular season. One of the two losses suffered by the Dubs at home this season, however, came at the hands of Memphis.

The biggest issue is how the Warriors will handle the Grizzlies’ front line, in particular, two-time All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

This powerful duo combined to average nearly 33 points and 18 rebounds per game during the regular season. They have put up comparable numbers in the playoffs.

The reason for my concern about Gasol and Randolph goes back to the unfortunate existence of “playoff basketball,” where the game slows down, becomes more physical and a large inside presence can be a major factor in winning games.

With that said, so far, the Warriors are not allowing the game to slow down and continue to play their exciting, up-tempo offense. They are also dealing well with the physical play and are doing a fantastic job establishing an inside presence with their offensive rebounding. For stretches, the Dubs are displaying a tough, defensive brand of basketball.

Surprisingly, the Warriors out-rebounded Memphis in all three of the previous games, yet allowing second-chance opportunities continues to be an area of deficiency. During the regular season, the Warriors ranked just 18th in defensive rebounding. Fortunately, the Grizzlies are not ranked high in the offensive rebounding category.

Defense, however, may just be what the Grizzlies can count on to challenge the Warriors. True, the Dubs led the league in that department, allowing 98.2 points per game, but Memphis wasn’t far behind in fourth place at 99.9 points per game.

In the playoffs, the Grizzlies held the Portland Trail Blazers to 100 points per game and the Warriors allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to score 104 points per game. Therefore, the Warriors must execute effectively and efficiently on the offensive end of the court in order to overcome the more- than-competent defense of the Grizzlies.

Taking care of the ball and limiting foolish turnovers will be critical. Turnovers can lead to easy transition baskets, which the Warriors allow too frequently. Meanwhile, in the first round of the playoffs, Memphis had the fewest turnovers per game of any team with just eight per game. The Dubs averaged 14 per game.

Statistically, the Warriors were definitely the superior team during the regular season, especially on offense, where the Grizzlies trailed by substantial margins in almost all categories, most notably in points scored per game (98-110) and 3-point shooting percentage (34 percent-40 percent), which is significant. Ironically, during these playoffs, Memphis is actually shooting a higher percentage than Golden State from beyond the arc, 46 percent to 38 percent, and also from the charity stripe, an impressive 87 percent to 70 percent.

Looking at match-ups on paper and using statistics to predict outcomes makes for interesting possibilities. However, you still have to play the games. Unless the Warriors turn ice cold on the offensive end of the court for extended periods of time and their defense decides to take a vacation, I see no way that the Grizzlies can beat them four times. Make it Warriors in five.

Rick Barry played eight season for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.

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