Warriors welcome Memphis grind 

click to enlarge Warriors center Andrew Bogut, right, will face a tall task Sunday when he takes on Marc Gasol and the "Grind-and-Grind" style of the Memphis Grizzlies. - DANNY JOHNSTON/AP
  • Danny Johnston/AP
  • Warriors center Andrew Bogut, right, will face a tall task Sunday when he takes on Marc Gasol and the "Grind-and-Grind" style of the Memphis Grizzlies.
OAKLAND — The Memphis Grizzlies are known in NBA circles for their ability to pound out wins, with a style (Grind-and-Grind), a home arena (FedEx Forum, aka The Grindhouse) and a shooting guard-folk hero (Tony “Grindfather” Allen) who is named in honor of their physical style.

The Warriors will find out firsthand what’s behind those names at Oracle Arena on Sunday in the first playoff meeting ever between the franchises. They’ll have a chance to shift yet another leaguewide perception in a season full of firsts — that their roster isn’t rugged enough to seriously contend for a championship.

“I don’t think anyone on our team is known for being tough or physical because we score so many points,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “And that’s the way we like it.

“Everyone thinks, ‘It’s going be a run-and-gun game, the Warriors are going to score 110. It’s going to be a free-flowing, 3-point game.’ And they forget we’re No. 1 defensively for a reason. We still don’t get that attention, and I think it’s a good thing, actually. We surprise a lot of teams with that.”

It’s not a surprise, however, that much of the talk leading up to the Western Conference semifinals opener at Oracle Arena will likely center around the team’s contrasting styles — call it Grind versus Gun — and the potential duel down low between Bogut and Draymond Green and the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Indeed, the 7-foot Bogut, who acknowledged Gasol’s place among the NBA’s best centers and Randolph as “one of the smartest players in the league,” proved himself integral after sitting out of the first regular-season meeting, which the Warriors lost at home 105-98 on Dec. 16.

In the next two meetings, though, Warriors star Stephen Curry went for 38 points (his fourth-highest total of the season) in a 107-84 blowout win March 27 at Memphis, to which Klay Thompson countered by pouring in 42 (37 in the second half) in a 111-107 victory, setting the regular-season record for most points in one half against the Grizzlies.

“You want to go into a playoff series having felt some success,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You also don’t want to use that for anything that it’s not. ... But it’s the playoffs. They’re going to be fresher. They’re going to be more alert defensively just like we will, hopefully.So we should not go into this game by any means thinking, ‘Oh, we just won the last two against Memphis in the last month. We’re fine.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

What does matter more, perhaps, is the fluid Warriors’ offensive system installed this season by Kerr and associate coach Alvin Gentry, and the team’s ability to stay true to its ball-movement principles.

“We got to run and keep our tempo,” Bogut said. “The last couple years, we ran a lot of isolation stuff, and that plays right into Memphis’ hands. If you keep the ball on one side of the court, that’s what they’re all about. When we can swing the ball side to side and get their big guys in the pick and roll and move the ball, I think that’s a big reason why [our offense had success this season]." The Grizzlies, meanwhile, will presumably look to slow the game down, and according to Bogut, “keep scores in the 70s, 80s and 90s,” which would make even more sense given point guard Mike Conley’s uncertain status. He suffered a facial fracture in a Game 3 victory at Portland last Saturday and subsequently received two metal plates in his face.

Guards Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes are expected to get the lion’s share of the minutes in trying to replace the 27-year-old Ohio State product’s career postseason averages of 15.8 points and 6.8 assists a game — though Bogut wouldn’t rule out the unexpected.

“I’m not ruling [Conley] out until I don’t see him on the court in Game 1,” Bogut said. “He’s got a week to prepare. And those pills these days do wonderful things. We’re preparing like he’s playing. You never know what’s going to happen. They could give him an Iron Man mask — who knows?”

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Jack Ross

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