MEMPHIS -- Killer instinct is a crude, inappropriate and frankly clichéd way to explain the Golden State Warriors’ task here Friday.
So call it “urgency to finish,” as the meat of the question, “Do they have sufficient urgency to finish off the Memphis Grizzlies and begin their next leg of the race to glory?”
The obvious mathematical answer is, of course, “Yes, though they don’t really have to do so. They’re up 3-2, they’re going home either way, and the Grizzlies are the ones gripped with what Tim Roye would call ‘desperation sensation.’”
In addition, finishing the series allows them the possibility of a Sunday afternoon off, and who wouldn’t want that?
There is with the Warriors, however, the lingering matter of whether they fully comprehend the degree of difficulty involved in such an undertaking, given the relative ease with which they have amassed their 73-17 record. It may be nothing at all, as so many of these things are, or it may be merely the ethereal suspicion that only true adversity tempers steel. And what adversity the Warriors have faced this year was met with stern resistance in Game 4, a 98-78 throttling of the Grizzlies that showed Golden State at its most effervescently belligerent.
In other words, the matter of urgency may be moot. The Warriors, through the auspices of not only the Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson/Draymond Green/Andrew Bogut core, but the less noticeable but just as important contributions of Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David Lee, have grabbed this series by the back of the neck and can with only the most minor tweaks put the other hand in play as well, thus ending what was momentarily a contentious series.
The matter of Tony Allen is also nearly moot. The defensive specialist with the whingeing hamstring intends to play in Game 6, but his effectiveness must be considered in doubt until he shows otherwise, and even if he can create havoc when the Warriors have the ball, he must also resist the temptation to be a scorer at the other end, which is how he undid the Grizzlies in Game 4.
In other words, Memphis coach Dave Joerger goes into Game 6 with a knotty little problem -- play Allen and go four-on-five offensively (or maybe even 3 1/2-on-5 if the Warriors let Allen stand free and gum up the paint by playing their modified box-on-one with Zach Randolph), or sit Allen and suffer defensively while he hopes that he can get something out of Beno Udrih, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Mike Conley.
Either way, Joerger is stuck, as he is playing with fewer cards than is Steve Kerr. That isn’t the same as being outcoached; it is the same as being a poker player with a queen-jack against the other guy’s aces-under. Aces under can be cracked, but it takes a heap of luck to go along with urgency and skill, and that is where Memphis is right now -- looking for the right flop, turn and river to keep this series going to Sunday in Oakland.
If not, the Warriors will have cleared their second hurdle, and their first one of moderate difficulty. The rules say it only gets harder from here, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes all it gets is different. But that’s another overthink for another time. Today, for the Warriors, it’s about ... well, bringing more of what they’ve brought to date. Seventy-three wins is enough of a template on its own without having to bring in new stirring speeches about finishing or not leaving anything on the floor or, worst of all, having the killer instinct.
And that is relief enough.