SAN FRANCISCO – The Grizzlies are hopeful center Steven Adams’ return to action and the improved health of guard Desmond Bane will provide a boost against the Warriors as their second-round playoff series shifts to Golden State.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins confirmed after Friday’s practice in Oakland that Adams will be available to play as soon as Saturday, and that Bane’s sore back condition has improved significantly entering a pivotal Game 3 at the Chase Center.
Both Adams and Bane participated in Friday’s workout as the Grizzlies look to regain homecourt advantage in the 1-1 series by winning at least one of the next two games in Golden State.
Adams was cleared earlier this week to return from the NBA’s health and safety protocols and went through his second day of additional five-on-five scrimmage work after practice. Although Adams started at center throughout the season, the 7-foot veteran fell out of the rotation because of matchup problems in the Grizzlies’ opening-round series win over Minnesota.
But his return after more than a week away could provide the rebounding punch the Grizzlies desperately need after being outworked in that area through two games against the Warriors. A Memphis team that led the NBA in rebounding in the regular season now trails on the glass 104-94 overall through two games, and has been outscored 46-32 in second-chance points.
Jenkins was non-committal when asked Friday if Adams would start or come off the bench in Game 3, but he does expect the Grizzzlies’ leading rebounder to be ready if called upon.
We didn’t do a lot of contact these last two days of practice, but he’s been a full participant in everything. He’s trending in a really good direction.
“He’ll be active, and I’ll figure out the rotations in the next 24 hours, but he’s trending in a good direction and he’s getting his wind back – you know, doing Steven Adams things out there,” Jenkins said of Adams, who led the NBA in offensive rebounding this season when he averaged 6.9 points, 10 boards and 3.4 assists a game. “So we’ve got a lot of confidence that when we put him in the lineup, he’s going to go out there and be successful.”
Jenkins is also optimistic Bane will return to form in the upcoming games after back soreness limited his play the past two contests. Bane is averaging just seven points on 29.4 percent shooting from the field in the two games against Golden State. Those numbers are drastically down from his breakout performance against Minnesota in the previous series, when Bane averaged 23.5 points on 50.4 percent shooting overall and 46.0 percent on threes.
Bane tweaked his back in the Game 6 clinching win in Minnesota last week, and has played through soreness in the two games against Golden State. Both Bane and Jenkins said rest and treatment between Game 2 on Tuesday and Saturday’s Game 3 have been helpful.
Bane’s production will be key without Dillon Brooks available as the Grizzlies try to compensate on the wing in Game 3. Brooks will serve his one-game, NBA-sanctioned suspension for his ejection on a flagrant foul he committed on Warriors guard Gary Payton II in Game 2.
“He’s doing good,” Jenkins said of Bane. “We didn’t do a lot of contact these last two days of practice, but he’s been a full participant in everything. He’s trending in a really good direction.”
Steve-O is a leader on this team and he brings a lot of energy. We’ve missed him while he was out, so we’re excited to get him back, and he’s ready to go.
Adams brings far more than a rebounding edge to the Grizzlies. His passing as a facilitator in the offense has been exceptional this season from the center position, and his screen-setting at the top of the key routinely has allowed point guard Ja Morant to get into the lane.
Morant is the first guard in league history to lead the NBA in points in the paint because of his penchant for getting into the restricted area and dominating at the basket. Adams plays an essential role in creating space and openings for Morant, who is coming off a playoff career-high, 47-point scoring effort in a 106-101 win over the Warriors in Game 2 to even the series.
Grizzlies’ teammates were thrilled to see the progress Adams made over the past two days to get his health and conditioning level back up to speed amid his looming return to game action.
“It’s just his energy,” Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones said of Adams’ approach to practice sessions this week. “Steve-O is a leader on this team and he brings a lot of energy. We’ve missed him while he was out, so we’re excited to get him back, and he’s ready to go.”
Exactly when and where Adams will be reintegrated into the mix remains in question. Jenkins has changed his starting lineup four different times through the first eight playoff games this postseason. In the past five games, Memphis has started second-year center Xavier Tillman.
One potential dilemma facing the Grizzlies is how to match up with the Warriors when they play a smaller lineup, with Draymond Green at center surrounded by four wing players. Theoretically, Adams would be a more natural matchup fit in the minutes when the Warriors use reserve big man Kevon Looney, who is a more traditional center.
He’s just a big body, a bruiser with that physicality. He’s one of the leaders on our team. So we appreciate having him back.
But Adams has found success on the floor under many different circumstances as the Grizzlies have imposed their playing style on opponents much of the season. This stage of the playoffs, however, represents a different sort of chess match between elite teams.
Still, the Grizzlies are eager to get one of their biggest pieces back on the board in Adams.
“It’s been great (to have him back out there), because we definitely need Steve-O,” forward Ziaire Williams said ahead of Game 3. “He’s just a big body, a bruiser with that physicality. He’s one of the leaders on our team. So we appreciate having him back.”
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