Warriors observations: Steph Curry clutch in ugly Game 4 win over Grizzlies

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What we learned as Dubs survive Game 4, win ugly vs. Grizzlies originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- One team was without its head coach Monday night at Chase Center, and the other was without its superstar. 
The one without its usual head coach prevailed. Barely.

The Warriors outlasted the Memphis Grizzlies 101-98 in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, outscoring them by 10 in the fourth quarter. They scored 38 points in the first half, and 39 in the fourth quarter. After one of the uglier games the Warriors have played perhaps all season, they can enjoy a giant exhale.

Hey, a win's a win, and this one game the Warriors a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the second round.

Steve Kerr tested positive for COVID-19 not even two hours before tipoff, meaning Mike Brown, on the same day he was named the Sacramento Kings' next head coach, would serve as Golden State's acting head coach. Brown now is a perfect 12-0 in Warriors playoff games where he has had to step in for Kerr.

Grizzlies All-Star point guard Ja Morant was ruled out with a knee injury, and it's unknown at this point how long he will be sidelined.

Tyus Jones, who replaced him in the starting lineup, scored only seven points in the first three games combined but dropped 19 on Monday night.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and the rest of the Warriors struggled shooting all night and couldn't get consistent rhythm going with their offense. The Warriors didn't take their first lead until two free throws from Curry with 45.7 seconds left in the game made it 94-93 in favor of the home team. Curry went 4-for-14 from downtown, Thompson missed all seven of his 3-pointers and Poole was 0-for-3.

But Steph saved his best for last, scoring 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, with eight of those points coming from the free-throw line.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors being one win away from the Western Conference finals.

First Half From Hell

The Warriors are notorious for slow starts. Not so much for laying down bricks in their hometown.

Well, that was the case in the first half. The Warriors went 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the first quarter, and missed their first 15 attempts from deep before Otto Porter Jr. ended the ugly streak with 3:23 left in the first half. That made the score 35-31 in favor of the Grizzlies.

Through the first two quarters, the Warriors also committed 11 turnovers and had just 10 assists. That isn't going to cut it against the Grizzlies, whether they have Morant on the floor or not.

At halftime, the Warriors scored only 38 points. In their Game 3 win just two nights ago, they scored 38 points in the second quarter alone, 37 in the third and 41 in the fourth.

The good news? The Grizzlies shot nearly just as bad as Golden State in the first half, which is why the Warriors only trailed by three points.

No More Bully Ball

Coming into the second round, there were serious concerns about how the Warriors would fare on the glass. The Grizzlies were the best-rebounding team in the NBA throughout the regular season, and the Warriors weren't exactly near the top. But in the first three games of the series, the Warriors flipped the script.

They scored 38 more points in the paint than the Grizzlies through the first three games and grabbed 17 more rebounds. Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins clearly was sick of seeing that.

He turned to 6-foot-11, 265-pound center Steven Adams and put him back in the starting lineup. That move made a big difference, too. 
Adams finished with 15 rebounds over 27 minutes. He scored 10 points and was a plus-13 in plus-minus.

However, the Warriors again finished with more rebounds as a team, 54-48, thanks to 11 from Draymond Green, 10 from Andrew Wiggins and nine from Kevon Looney. The Grizzlies did score more points in the paint this time, winning that battle 56-42.

Where's The Energy?

From the players to the fans, Chase Center felt more like a preseason game than a crucial playoff game. Was this a case of the Tech Startup Monday Blues? Whatever you want to call it, this sure didn't feel like a playoff atmosphere.

The crowd erupted with a few fourth-quarter 3-pointers, but that's not enough. For far too long, the loudest they were was when 49ers tight end George Kittle was shown on the jumbotron trying to pump up Dub Nation.

This series has seen ejections and a whole lot of pettiness. Right from the start, there should have been a message sent to Memphis with the crowd never letting up. That simply didn't happen.

Players deserve some blame, too. They knew the Grizzlies were without Morant. They knew how important a big start would have been.

Whether this series comes back for a Game 6 or when the Warriors are back here for the next round, players and fans alike need to bring non-stop energy. That means from start to finish, not with long lulls in between.