With 28 points and 13 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, Zach Randolph has capped arguably the finest month by a single player in Grizzlies history — 24 points and 14 rebounds a game on 52-percent shooting while the team has gone 9-4 after a 6-12 start.
Along the way, Randolph has become an instant fan favorite and helped obscure the poor returns on the team's two other major off-season moves — drafting Hasheem Thabeet and signing Allen Iverson.
Why has Randolph been so productive — individually and in a team context — and how different has his play been from his established career norms? Let's investigate.
Not the Same Zach Randolph
Randolph's performance for the Grizzlies this season seems to fit his reputation and career numbers — Zach Randolph, scoring and rebounding machine, Mr. 20/10.
Just look at his per-game scoring and rebounding averages since becoming a full-time player in the 2003-2004 season:
Randolph's rebound average after his astounding past week or so is the highest of his career (and likely to taper off as the season progresses), but otherwise, Randolph's game averages this season are in line with his career norms. Fans can be forgiven for thinking that the Randolph who's donned Beale Street Blue is the same player he's always been.
The win moves the Grizzlies to 14-16, gives them an 8-4 record in December and a 13-8 record since the 1-8 start. The team has also won four-straight on the home floor.
With Gay out, the Grizzlies got 20 or more points from the other four remaining starters (including dual 20-10s from Randolph and Gasol) and mitigated their even battle on the offensive boards (a rarity this season) by winning the turnover-differential battle (another rarity).
Alright, I'm courtside at FedExForum as the Grizzlies get ready to face off with the league's most underachieving team, the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards are 10-18 on the season and coming off a double-digit loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but with a high-scoring triumvirate of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and noted Grizzlies Killer Antawn Jamison, they're a dangerous team.
A subplot to watch: Can Zach Randolph lead the team in scoring and rebounding for a fifth straight game and cap off his bid to be the Western Conference's player of the month? The match-up is favorable for him with finesse four Jamison likely checking him for much of the game.
I will have a full post-game report up sometime later tonight. In the meantime, I'll be providing occasional Twitter commentary on the feed below. You're also welcome to pipe in with queries, hosannas, or outraged retorts in the comments section to this post. I'll drop in as seems warranted.
Let's do this.
The Grizzlies overcame a rocky start and fourth-quarter scare to overpower the Golden State Warriors in a fun, high-scoring game, improving their record to 13-15 and moving ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Hornets to reach 11th place in the Western Conference standings. The Grizzlies are now 9-5 on the home floor. If they can steal a win Saturday afternoon in Dallas, then the Griz could come home Monday to host a struggling Washington Wizards team for a chance to move to .500. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First …
1. The Broken Record: Whaddya know? The Griz frontcourt had another monster game with Zach Randolph leading the way. Randolph scored 33 points on 14-21 shooting, with 18 rebounds, just missing posting back-to-back 30/20 games. Randolph set a season high in scoring and notched a franchise record for most rebounds in a three-game stretch with 58. Meanwhile, yet again, despite having his frontcourt partner post huge numbers, Marc Gasol also had a terrific game with 22 points (10-17) shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. I don't know if Randolph/Gasol are the league's best frontcourt tandem right now, but they're probably the most productive.
Alright, I'm courtside at FedExForum as the Grizzlies get ready to face off with the league's most compelling bad team, the Golden State Warriors.
The league's most extreme fast-paced team with wall-to-wall small-ball lineups, the Warriors tonight are what John Calipari might call a "danger game."
Unlike this past weekend, I will have a full post-game report up sometime later tonight. In the meantime, I'll be providing occasional Twitter commentary on the feed below. You're also welcome to pipe in with questions, exhortations, or invective in the comments section to this post. I'll drop in as seems warranted.
Let's do this.
The Grizzlies face the Golden Warriors tonight at FedExForum and weeknight games against the Warriors have historically been among the worst attended Grizzlies games. But fans should consider giving this game a shot: The Grizzlies are playing well and the Warriors are playing crazy, which means tonight's has enormous entertainment potential.
It'll be the second meeting for these teams after the Warriors won 113-105 in Oakland November 4th. But a lot has changed since then: Both teams have jettisoned volatile "stars," Stephen Jackson and Allen Iverson, respectively, and have headed in different directions: The Grizzlies winners of two in a row and 6 of 9 in December, the Warriors on a five-game losing streak and 1-9 in December (only win against the Nets).
What to make of the match-up:
1. Clashing Styles: While the Grizzlies are a relatively fast-paced (11th), high-scoring (also 11th) team, they're nothing like the Warriors who are the most extreme team in the league. With injuries to four key frontcourt players (Andris Biedrins, Ronny Turiaf, Brandon Wright, and Mikki Moore), the Warriors have been playing an even more extreme version of coach Don Nelson's favored small ball, featuring lineups that are frequently made up entirely of guards and swingmen, with colossally talented but still-developing Anthony Randolph the only legitimate frontcourt player seeing regular minutes. As a result, the Warriors play the smallest lineups and fastest pace in the NBA.
The Grizzlies had a nice weekend, beating the Indiana Pacers 107-94 at FedExForum Friday night and then returning for a rare Sunday afternoon home game today to take down the Denver Nuggets 102-96.
Since I had post-game plans immediately after both games this weekend, I wasn't able to do traditional post-game reports, so I'm going combining the games into this three-pointer.
There was a similar flow to both games: The Grizzlies jumping out to great starts (20-8 opening run versus the Pacers, a 50-27 lead midway through the second quarter against the Nuggets), faltering in the middle stretch (trailing by 5 at the half against the Pacers, letting the Nuggets creep to within two midway through the fourth quarter), and then finding their footing to close out the games (a dominant second half against the Pacers, and a series of clutch scores to hold on against the Nuggets).
Another similarity: Zach Randolph having words with opposing bigs. Against the Pacers, rookie Tyler Hansbrough showed up Randolph after a steal and dunk, despite Randolph dominating Hansbrough most of the game. Before Randolph took a seat in the fourth quarter, he wandered over to give the rookie some firm advice. Against the Nuggets, Randolph and Nene got tangled, had some words, and suddenly referees and coaches were breaking up a scrum of players shoving and jawing.
Three things I came out of this weekend thinking about:
1. The 30-20 Club: The Player of the Weekend was clearly Zach Randolph, who dominated both games. Against the Pacers, Randolph put up 26 points (11-20 shooting) and 16 rebounds, with 3 assists and 3 blocks. Against the Nuggets, Randolph almost single-handedly held off a Nuggets comeback, finishing with 32 points (13-21 shooting) and 24 rebounds (9 offensive), with 3 assists, a steal, and block and a game-clinching three-pointer in the final minute.
Alright. I'm courtside tonight for Griz-Pacers, hanging with Larry Legend who is taking in the pre-game shootaround.
There are 1200 citizens of Poplar Bluffs, Missouri in the house tonight to root on their homeboy, Pacers rookie Tyler Hansbrough.
Griz, losers of three of their past four despite general upward trend, need this one tonight to keep up their momentum. A loss at home to a lesser Pacers team and doubts start to creep back.
I won't have an immediate post-game report as I have plans right after the game, but will try to have something up in the morning.
In the meantime, I'll be tweeting occasional commentary tonight.
Let's do this.
The Grizzlies take on the Atlanta Hawks tonight in a road game that starts at 6 p.m. Three quick thoughts:
1. The Truest Template: As the Grizzlies finally begin their ascent to respectability, the two teams most often used as comparisons are the two young Western Conference teams ahead of the Grizzlies on the developmental ladder — the Portland Trailblazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But I'd like to nominate the Atlanta Hawks as the best current model for how the Grizzlies are being built.
The Hawks, at 17-6, are the best team in the NBA without a first-tier star player. Like the Grizzlies, there's no one on their roster with the alpha-dog upside of OKC's Kevin Durant or Portland's Brandon Roy (or Theoretical Greg Oden). Like the Grizzlies, they've suffered some poor draft decisions, mismanagement, and shaky ownership issues, but by virtue of being bad-to-mediocre for several years, still built up a good talent base in the draft (Horford/Smith/Williams = Gay/Mayo/Conley/Thabeet) and nabbed a couple of key but not overwhelming pieces via trade/free agency (Johnson/Bibby/Crawford = Randolph/Gasol). After marinating for a few years, the young players developed into significant players and some chemistry emerged and suddenly Atlanta found themselves with a contender. This team may not win a title, but they'll win a lot of games and likely have a decent bit of post-season success. And they'll be fun to watch while doing so.
I'm going to hold off on a traditional post-game report until tomorrow, because my first reaction to tonight's game, a 110-105 loss to a now 20-4 Boston Celtics team, is to soak up how much I enjoyed it and to try to put it in a little perspective relative to the development of this team.
I care a lot about the success of the Grizzlies on and off the court, but I come at the team from the perspective of an NBA fan first and foremost, and it's that perspective from which I loved this game. Tonight, a veteran title contender with the league's best record, a 10-game winning streak, and a lineup built around three future hall-of-famers came into a road game with a day's rest to face a suddenly surging but very young team on the second night of a back-to-back.
The lead never exceeded five points in either direction. The young team on the back-to-back was clearly fatigued in the second half, but mounted several mini-comebacks when it seemed like they were ready to fold, including a surprising six-point run just past the three-minute mark to pull within two points and force the veteran contenders to call a timeout. The rest of the way — fewer than 90 seconds to play — it took all three future hall-of-famers making clutch shots for the veteran team to take this game: A high-arcing 22-footer from Kevin Garnett. A fierce driving finish from Paul Pierce. And then the back-breaker: Down only two points with under 20 second the play, the Grizzlies broke up a Celtics play, forcing a long, off-balance three-pointer at the end of the shot clock. The shooter? Walter Ray Allen. Game over.
Alright. I'm courtside at FedExForum where the Grizzlies are getting ready to take on perhaps the league's best team, the Boston Celtics.
After a 4-1 start to the month and a road thrashing yesterday of the Miami Heat, the Grizzlies are playing their best basketball in years, but are a deserving underdog tonight. Most games the Grizzlies have played this season, they've had a favorable match-up at one or both of the frontcourt positions. Not so tonight facing the elite interior tandem of Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. The scoring onus might fall on Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo tonight, but we know they're capable.
Check back later tonight (or tomorrow morning) for a full post-game recap. In the meantime, I send out the occasional Twitter missive and will pop back in here as seems warranted.
Let's do this:
I haven't had a chance to write about the Grizzlies' dynamic 118-90 thrashing of the Miami Heat yesterday on South Beach, but Kelly Dwyer has, and likes what he sees.
Alright. I'm courtside for Grizzlies-Thunder.
Let's do this.
Marc Gasol needs to break out tonight.
Thunder jump out 9-2 as Griz not converting good opportunities. And a quick timeout.
Krstic and Green outscoring Randolph and Gasol 10-4 and Thunder up 16-8. The match-ups I highlighted in the pre-game not going well for Grizzlies so far. Need to get more physical and more focused on getting interior shots coming out of the timeout.
To order: Randolph interior shot, Gasol follow.
Griz down 22-12 despite only two turnovers: Getting outscored in the paint (14-12) and down (-1) on offensive boards, two areas where they should be excelling.
Barring the unexpected, it appears likely Wafer will join the Grizzlies sometime in the next couple of weeks.
1. The move is a great sign because the Grizzlies are at the league's roster minimum and don't need to add anyone. Using some of the cap-room regained from parting ways with Allen Iverson and an open roster spot on a good player despite still basement-level attendance, suggests the Grizzlies are serious about trying to build on their recent momentum.
2. Wafer in particular is a good signing. After bouncing around his first few seasons, Wafer established himself last season as a productive bench scorer for the Rockets, shooting 45% from the floor and 39% from three and averaging nearly double digits in scoring despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game.
I'll be there tonight and, because I won't be able to do a full post-game report, I'm going to live blog this one. So if you're watching from home tonight, check back in, or look in tomorrow to relive the action.
Until then, some keys for tonight:
1. Dominating Down Low: The Thunder are best know for young stars Kevin Durant (currently the league's third leading scorer) and Russell Westbrook (one of the game's most awesomely athletic players), but the X-factor for the Thunder this season has actually been its less heralded frontcourt tandem of Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, who individual performances have been the biggest indicator of team success.
In wins, Green has averaged 17 points on 48% shooting (36% from three). In losses, Green has averaged 11 points on 38% shooting (20% from three). The pattern is similar for Krstic: In wins, he's averaged 11 points on 56% shooting. In losses, 5 points on 35% shooting.