This time last year, when the injury-plagued Golden State Warriors and the timid Memphis Grizzlies didn’t know that players like Jordan Poole and Desmond Bane would improve rapidly, the idea that they would be meeting in the second round of this year’s playoffs would have been unthinkable. Even if you knew they would meet in the playoffs, you wouldn’t be expecting the Grizzlies to have the home-court advantage. Yet, basketball has a funny way of surprising us. Get ready for some commotion in the first half of May. The Ja Morant versus Stephen Curry tussle alone will offer lofty expectations and constant fodder for debate.
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The scrappy Grizzlies won three out of the four games they played against the Warriors during the regular season. It’s worth noting that key members from both teams were out during those games. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and even Morant were just some of the players who missed time during those matchups. With both squads healthier and emerging stronger from their first-round battles, this series suddenly has a different vibe to it.
Speaking of vibes, there’ll be a few players on the Memphis bench who’ll be checking in on Andre Iguodala from time to time. Iguodala was once a part of the Memphis organization but never planned on playing a single minute for them. This gave off a bad vibe and angered guys like Dillon Brooks. Brooks said that they want to play against Iguodala and show him what Memphis is about. The chance to face Iguodala’s team is here again but this time the stakes are much higher and the team is ready for it. The Grizzlies developed a bond during the season that simply hadn’t been seen in previous years.
Memphis Grizzlies X-Factor: Jaren Jackson Jr.
The blocks per game leader of the regular season will be needed to provide the defensive presence against the Warriors. More will be asked from Jackson this time as they face another powerful offensive team. Jackson can be a force blocking shots, but at the same time, he has to be careful not to get into foul trouble. He amassed 31 fouls in six games in the previous round. Another foul-prone performance from him could mean a second-round exit for the Grizzlies, especially against a complete Warriors team that can easily go on 10-0 scoring runs.
Golden State Warriors X-Factor: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins was having a good year. Injuries to his teammates forced his numbers and highlight reels to go up and the result was an All-Star starting spot. All of that buzz went away when Poole overtook him in the race for the spotlight. If the coaches really want to have an easier time in the second round of the playoffs, they’ll have to reinstall Wiggins into their set plays. If the defense will focus on the trio of Warriors guards, Wiggins can run free and return to his All-Star form.
Series Prediction: Golden State Warriors 4 – Memphis Grizzlies 2
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Main Image Credit: via Golden State of Mind