MEMPHIS, Tenn. » Steve Kerr challenged his Golden State Warriors to ratchet up the intensity to playoff-level. With MVP Stephen Curry leading the way, they responded and looked like the team that cruised through the regular season.
Curry scored 21 of his 33 points by halftime, and the Warriors snapped their two-game skid Monday night by routing the Memphis Grizzlies 101-84 to tie the Western Conference semifinals at 2-2.
"Tonight we took a step towards understanding that sense of urgency and kind of competitiveness and physicality to the game," Kerr said. "It was probably our most competitive effort, definitely of the series, but probably of the playoffs just in terms of understanding you got to play every second."
The Warriors hadn’t lost three straight games all season, and they never came close as they took back home-court advantage. Curry hadn’t scored more than 23 points in a game in this series, and he nearly had that by halftime.
Draymond Green had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors while Klay Thompson had 15 points, Harrison Barnes 12 and Andre Iguodala 11.
"We set the tone the first quarter and kept the foot on the gas pedal the whole way, and that’s how we play," Curry said.
Marc Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis while Zach Randolph had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Conley finished with 10 points and seven assists but was 4 of 15 from the field. Memphis pulled its starters with 3:00 left.
Game 5 is Wednesday night at Golden State.
"This series could have been close to over if we hadn’t come out like we were supposed to tonight," Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. "You know it’s never over until the end, but being down 3-1 going home is a pretty tough task, so 2-2 right now in a three-game series and we like our chances."
Memphis coach Dave Joerger had given his Grizzlies a history lesson reminding them of previous blown 2-1 leads in the postseason. It didn’t help as the Grizzlies lost their fourth straight Game 4, the third of those on their own court. They just didn’t play with the same defensive intensity as the last two games.
"We lost our composure early in the first half, especially in the first quarter," Joerger said. "We needed to keep that closer in the first quarter. We had a chance there. Our offense really struggled tonight, and it put our defense in a bad way."
Instead, it was the Warriors beating the Grizzlies to nearly every loose ball, scrapping to keep their dream season from falling to the brink of elimination. They got back their offensive rhythm as well leading by as many as 26 points, and they had their best game shooting outside the arc knocking down 14 3s to overcome 21 turnovers.
"We got into scramble mode too early defensively," Gasol said.
Green looked like the forward who got the most first-place votes for defensive player of the year. He teamed with Bogut and Barnes making the night miserable for Randolph and Gasol with Bogut roving over to the paint while nominally defending Tony Allen. Green scored eight of Golden State’s first 10 points.
Memphis led only briefly with its last at 9-8 and never got within double digits in the second half.
The Warriors took control with a 16-6 run that made it 34-24 early in the second quarter, their biggest lead since the opener of this series.
Curry didn’t take his first shot until 3:30 left in the first quarter, and he missed his first 3 along with a layup. He settled down and had seven points by the end of the period, including a 27-footer giving Golden State a 28-20 lead at the end of the frame. The Warriors outscored Memphis 33-24 in the second, taking a 61-44 halftime lead.
Warriors: Golden State is 20-19 all-time in Game 4s dating to 1947. The Warriors trailed 2-1 in the 2013 conference semifinals and won Game 4 against the Spurs. San Antonio won the series in six games. … Curry had his ninth career playoff game with at least 30 points. … Green, who came in 9 of 30 from the field in this series, was 6 of 12.
Grizzlies: They are 3-9 in franchise history in Game 4s, which includes being swept in the first three playoff series in team history. … Memphis dominated the paint winning the last two games. They outscored the Warriors 44-34 in this game on 22-of-56 shooting. … Jeff Green became the first reserve to score in double figures in this series with 10 points, and Vince Carter later joined him with 10.
Randolph and Green played at Michigan State, so Spartans coach Tom Izzo was on hand for this game. Izzo had company with new University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes sitting courtside beside Volunteers football coach Butch Jones.
"He’s the MVP. We should have had our antennas up. He was able to be MVP tonight." Allen said of Curry.