Could the Grizzlies’ competitive play give the Warriors the drive they need right now?


SAN FRANCISCO – Remember the image of Klay Thompson hovering over Dillon Brooks and letting loose with Brooks falling to the floor of center Chase during the fourth quarter of Christmas win for the Warriors Over the Memphis Grizzlies? Whatever Thompson was in and out of it at that moment is exactly what the Warriors, sitting at 23-24, need right now.


The Grizzlies’ return to San Francisco comes at the right time, even after nodding the Brooklyn Nets.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Steve Kerr said Tuesday after the Warriors coaching when asked if he felt a different vibe when the Warriors play a team like the Grizzlies with a heightened rivalry. “This can help us. Memphis is on the rise. They’ve got it. Great young team.”

“Obviously, we had a hell of a streak with them last year. So there was some, you know, some healthy sparring and a little bit of rivalry, so it’s fun.”

The Warriors are the reigning champions still led by 34-year-old Steve Curry and 32-year-old Draymond Green and Thompson. They’re trying to prove that while they may not be light years ahead, the dim light of the season can turn brighter when challenged. In recent history, the Grizzlies have brought out the best in them.

From beating the Grizzlies over six games in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season to sending them home a 14-point loss at Christmas without Curry and Andrew Wiggins, Memphis brings out the best in the Warriors. The reasons are clear. The Grizzlies, led by 23-year-old Ja Morant and a few others in their early 20s, want to cruise across the Golden Gate Bridge and giggle along the way with a Larry O’Brien trophy.

They are the next. The Warriors believe that until proven otherwise on the larger stage, the big dogs still reside at bay. And that’s been part of the story this season, with ups and downs but nothing consistent.

In an effort to find that extra gear, the Warriors brought everything they had for their first game of the season with the Grizzlies. Their energy was felt vibrating from the court to the rafters when They played with the Boston Celtics For the first time since the NBA Finals, it won by 16 at home after being destroyed in the last second by the Utah Jazz. Their Christmas win versus the Grizzlies started a five-game winning streak, all without Cary Wiggins.

What finally drove the Warriors to stack up the victories was an attitude. Nothing was left behind. The Warriors grabbed 51 rebounds in their previous confrontation with Memphis. At the time, this was second to the 53 rebounds they finished with in their first battle with Boston. They also have six steals and five blocks.

Every inch of the land matters.

“Just the strength needed,” Kerr said Tuesday about what the Warriors could take from their previous game with the Grizzlies. “When you play against Memphis, there’s really a big sports team, and everyone has to bounce. Everyone has to hit their body. Everyone has to dive to the ground for loose balls.

“They are a great team both physically and beyond. We have to reward the energy they bring.”

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Entering Wednesday night’s game, the Warriors are 8-2 at home against teams with the winningest records. Their defeat came to the Indiana Pacers, 12-11 at the time and without many top players, and Sunday’s loss to the Nets, who were 28-17 and no Kevin Durant. Chase Center has been more than the home of the Warriors this season. It was a haven for victories.

But not recently. Including a 12-point loss to the Nets in the final six minutes, the Warriors have now lost four straight home games. Those three other losses were at the hands of the 11-win Detroit Pistons, the 15-win Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns who lost six of their best players and went on to lose six straight games.

All of those losses were unsightly for teams the Warriors didn’t attend. You can bet that won’t be the case the moment Memphis walks onto the field. The Grizzlies have lost three straight games, and the Warriors would love nothing more than to extend that streak to four straight games.

“We’ve got a little bit of history in the last couple of years,” Wiggins said Tuesday. “It’s fun. These are the games that are fun, these are the competitive games, these are the games that bring out all that energy, all the momentum, everything.

“It must be fun.”

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