Steven Adams is the biggest X-factor in the Warriors-Grizzlies series

Steven Adams is the biggest X-factor in the Warriors-Grizzlies series

USA News

As is the case with every one of the NBA’s other conference semifinals, five meetings between the Warriors and Grizzlies have done nothing but confuse me from game to game. One night, Team A seems to have cracked the code on how to beat Team B, and the next night it’s a completely different story. Such is playoff basketball.

All of the wonkiness of this great series leaves me confused about what to expect in Games 6 and (potentially) 7. But one thing that I can confidently say is that Steven Adams is making a difference for Memphis.

Adams missed the first two games of the series as he battled COVID-19 and then played just garbage-time minutes in the Game 3 beatdown that the Grizzlies caught from the Warriors. But he returned to the starting lineup and regular minutes in Games 4 and 5. Here’s his impact in those games:

Offensive Rating: 132.4

Defensive Rating: 87.9

Net Rating: 44.5

Each of the three numbers listed above is the best on the Grizzlies over the two games, which includes a Game 4 in which Adams inexplicably sat the final eight minutes as the Warriors climbed out of an impossible hole.

What exactly is Adams doing out there to provide so much impact?

First, don’t sleep on what kind of physical impact a 6’11, 265-pound man can have on the opposition throughout a game, especially when the opposition’s biggest player is…Andrew Wiggins? Draymond Green?

Adams’ ability to set screens and grab offensive rebounds are difference-makers in allowing the Grizzlies easier opportunities on that end, and his passing, specifically out of the high-post, is a vastly underrated quality.

But the most eye-popping takeaway is his defense. You would think that his speed limitations would make him susceptible to abuse from Golden State’s guards in a way that Nikola Jokic was in the Warriors-Nuggets first-round matchup. And whether the Warriors simply aren’t tracking him, or he and the Grizzlies are doing things to combat any Golden State offense, Adams is giving Memphis a boost that it lacked in Games 1 and 2.

He’ll have to remain a key player in Game 6 if Memphis (+8.5 at Tipico) is going to continue to survive, but these playoffs have shown how quickly things change night after night.

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