SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors nearly made history en route to their 142-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Warriors shot 63.1% from the field and had a true shot percentage of 76.1 — the second best in both categories in NBA postseason history.
The Clippers had a 77.8% true shooting percentage against the Mavericks in Game 5 of their 2020 first-round series.
“If we trust each other and just meet the open man, we have so much great shooting that we’re capable of nights like this,” said Klay Thompson.
Early in Game 3, the Warriors emphasized the need to find their offensive rhythm, starting with better shot selection. Thompson’s performance in the first two games – and then the third – was the epitome of that.
“If we get good shots, there’s a much greater chance of Klay getting hot,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “And when he gets hot, our team looks different. … So it’s all connected.”
Heading into Saturday night, Thompson shot just 28.9% from the ground in the series, including just 5 of 22 of 3. He finally broke out in Game 3 and scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4- off-6 off 3.
“He has better shots,” Kerr said. “When you set a tone where you record well, the tough tend to come into play.”
The “Tough Ones” Kerr is talking about were highlighted by a one-legged runner just outside the 3-point line over Desmond Bane in the third quarter.
“As long as my shoulders are straight to the brim, I can take a one-foot, two-foot pull,” Thompson said. “I think it looks good and I’ve done it before.”
Kerr disagreed: “[It] wasn’t a good shot. But once he got comfortable he was in rhythm and he’s very capable of making those shots.
While Thompson found his scoring rhythm, the other two Warriors guards, Steph Curry and Jordan Poole, continued their already strong play of the series.
Curry posted a game-high 30 on 7-of-14 shooting while Poole finished with 27 on 11-of-17 shooting. They impacted defense as well, keeping the Grizzlies on just 4 shots out of 17 when they were the main defenders.
In Game 2, the Grizzlies continually attacked Poole, but on Saturday he did the same to them, piercing the paint every chance he got.
“I loved the way he attacked offensively, but I found it even more amazing how he defended and fought on that side of the ball,” said Draymond Green.
“If you come out and put an effort on that side of the ball, No. 1, your teammates can rally behind you, but more so from an X and O point of view, you put up some resistance and the guys can get there to give you to help when you need help. I mean we didn’t have to help him much tonight.”
The Warriors’ defense helped support their offensive flow. Early on, Golden State was strong in sales. Green said the Warriors went too deep in paint, tried to knock the ball out and “dance” a little too much on their cuts — generally being careless with the ball — which forced them to constantly defend Memphis in transition .
It didn’t help that the Grizzlies started the game with a flare from beyond the 3-point line. But as the Warriors began to prevent Memphis from scoring, they went for the offensive end.
“When you get your defense set, you come down with a level bottom and you can get transition opportunities,” Green said. “They all go hand in hand. I think we’re finally not going too deep and trying to pass the ball. You kind of get into a space, you see the first man open, you just move in.”
The arc that tied the Warriors’ offensive revelation together was the play of Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr.
Porter finished with a net rating of plus 33, easily making it his best playoff performance of the season. He was reliable on the boards, but lately he hasn’t been a factor up front. After not scoring multiple 3-pointers in a game since April 7, Porter knocked down three in Game 3 on his way to 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.
“It’s no coincidence. He just knows how to play,” Kerr said. “He’s in the right place all the time.”
Wiggins scored 17 points, 15 of which he scored in the first half – the most he has ever scored in the first half of a playoff game.
“That’s what we’ve been asking Wiggs all year…head down and to the hole,” Green said. “It’s very difficult to stop him from going to the basket.”
Green continued, “It’s bigger than just dunks. The way he’s recovered and the physicality that he’s played and boxed with… he’s done an incredible job no matter who he’s paired with.”
The Warriors look to their Game 3 scoring offense as a blueprint for what they can do. After the first two games of the series – the first winning by one point, the second losing by five points – they knew that both games could have ended differently if their offense had been a decimal better. Game 3 proved that.
“It was an accomplishment that I knew was in them,” Kerr said. “We saw on the tape that if we were a little more patient and balanced, we could get some good recordings. I think our players have adapted… and they did a great job of looking better tonight.”