MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Chris Hunter was the lone center available to the Warriors on Saturday night, but he sat for all but 10 minutes and 31 seconds against the Memphis Grizzlies.
That meant Anthony Tolliver and Corey Maggette, small forwards on most teams, had to serve as the Warriors' big men, and they along with their teammates were pummeled by the Memphis front line in a 123-107 setback in the second game of a back-to-back on the road.
Thanks to tendinitis in his right knee, Hunter couldn't do much to prevent the pounding the Warriors took from the Grizzlies' bigger, stronger front line.
"I know I need to be in there trying to do something about it," Hunter said. "It's tough to watch."
Don Nelson remained five games from becoming the NBA's all-time winningest coach with 13 games to play. Nelson could inch closer with the Warriors playing their next three games at home against Phoenix, Memphis and Dallas. But after that, seven of their remaining 10 games are on the road, where the Warriors have lost 13 straight.
"It's a good lesson actually," Nelson said, "to know how hard it is to win games in the NBA. I've always known it, but I certainly have been reminded this year. So anytime you get up there around 1,300 wins, why I guess it means something."
Golden State (19-50) did get rookie point guard Stephen Curry back in the starting lineup after he missed two games with a sprained left ankle. But he's not much help up
The Grizzlies didn't have starting center Marc Gasol, who was out with a strained neck, but they still outrebounded the Warriors by 17, tripled up the Warriors on second-chance points and racked up 72 points in the paint. Grizzlies forwards Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur combined for 61 points and 32 rebounds.
The third quarter was where the Warriors lost control. They trailed 69-64 at the break, with guard Monta Ellis scoring 18 of his 28 in the first two quarters. But things fell apart almost immediately after the third period started.
The Grizzlies started the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 78-66 lead. It was still a 12-point deficit for the Warriors with 4:56 left in the quarter, but an 11-2 run, powered by three baskets inside from Randolph, put the Warriors down 101-80.
Golden State, which gave up 90 points in the paint to San Antonio on Friday, had no fight left.
"We didn't have much size anyway," Nelson said. "When Hunter came up with tendinitis and was limping around out there, we were really vulnerable. I had to go with a small team the whole way. Of course we got hurt on the boards again. Got killed there. Got killed on inside points. So it was a long night."
Starting center Andris Biedrins is pretty much done for the season. His backup, Ronny Turiaf, is out with a sore left knee that has been bothering him all season. He's listed as day-to-day, but there's no telling when he can come back and what he can bring when he does.
That leaves Hunter as the lone big man. And when he's not playing, the Warriors have a front line of Tolliver, Maggette, forward Devean George and swingman Reggie Williams. Even guard Anthony Morrow is playing out of position at small forward.
"A lot of teams we play, they have true centers and true power forwards," Maggette said after totaling 20 points and six rebounds. "We don't. That's just part of Nellie's system, plus we have so many guys out."
"I'm a little out of place," said Tolliver, who led the Warriors with 11 rebounds to go with 12 points. "We just have to figure something out.
"These last couple of games, we've gotten punished in the paint. It's not just from post-ups. It's from them getting to the rack and finishing, and also from posting up, a lot of offensive rebounds, put-backs. We've just got to be more scrappy and be prepared for them to come at us in the paint."