Unlike Memphis, Golden State used a strong defensive effort to win its season opener and will try to continue that trend Friday night to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the Grizzlies.
While the Warriors look to open 2-0 for just the second time since 1994, Memphis hopes not to repeat last year’s 0-2 start. The Grizzlies, though, went on to post the best winning percentage in franchise history (41-25) while Golden State finished with the Western Conference’s third-worst record (23-43).
The Warriors allowed more than 100 points per game for the sixth straight season, but now they’re placing more of a focus on the defensive end under second-year coach Mark Jackson.
Golden State hasn’t ranked better than 12th among 15 West teams in scoring defense since 2003-04. The team was 28th in the NBA in points allowed (101.2) a year ago.
A season-opening 87-85 victory at Phoenix on Wednesday marked the Warriors’ third win since 2006 in which it scored less than 90 points. They forced 18 turnovers while holding the Suns to 40.0 percent from the field - 4 of 21 from 3-point range - and 18 points in the fourth quarter.
“Since we’ve been in training camp, coach Jackson and his staff have put an emphasis on defense and getting stops and that’s what we try to do,” said Carl Landry who scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth.
Memphis didn’t do as well defensively Wednesday, letting the Los Angeles Clippers score 28 in the fourth and shoot 51.4 percent overall in a 101-92 defeat.
The Grizzlies, though, did have 14 steals and force 22 turnovers after leading the NBA in both categories last season with averages of 9.6 and 17.1, respectively. They also allowed a conference-low 93.0 points per game.
Their NBA-record streak of opening-game losses reached 12, but Memphis has a good chance to bounce back Friday after sweeping all four meetings with the Warriors last season. The Grizzlies have shot 50.1 percent from the field during their six-game win streak in the series.
They weren’t nearly as efficient offensively Wednesday, committing 18 turnovers and shooting 38.4 percent - 2 for 14 from 3-point range.
“Our turnovers and our inability to make layups in the first half really limited us because when you get the ball inside you have to be able to finish and we couldn’t do that,” coach Lionel Hollins said.
While Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol had solid games with 25 and 20 points, respectively, Zach Randolph added 15 with 16 rebounds. He missed more than 2 1-2 months last season after tearing the MCL in his right knee.
“Our team just has to get better,” Randolph said. “We will put this one behind us and get ready for Golden State.”
The Warriors received a boost Wednesday with the return of center Andrew Bogut who had eight points and six rebounds in 18 1/2 minutes in his first game since breaking his left ankle Jan. 25.
“It’s been a long time coming for me; it’s been nine months since I’ve played basketball competitively,” Bogut said. “I felt great, body felt great.”
Teammate Stephen Curry wasn’t nearly as pleased with his opener, going 2 of 14 from the field on the day he signed a four-year, $44 million extension. Curry, though, averaged 23.0 points in three meetings with Memphis last season.
Gay has averaged 27.6 points over his last five games in the Bay Area.