Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 108, Suns 98 — Z-Bo Pushes That Boulder to the Top of the Hill

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 11:46 PM

Z-Bo: Man of the Match, and then some.
The Lead: The word of the game: Sisyphean.

The Grizzlies entered the night as the only team in the NBA without a legitimate “bad” loss, but for most of this one it sure felt like the Suns were going to hand them one.

A disastrous first quarter-and-a-half featuring 12 Grizzlies turnovers put the home team in a 16-point hole, their biggest deficit of the season. But, with Tony Allen missing the game, Quincy Pondexter and Darrell Arthur came off the bench to ignite the Grizzlies defense and pick up the team's energy, spurring a 16-4 run that pulled the Grizzlies to within a couple of buckets.

But every time the Grizzlies would get the boulder near the top of the hill, it would roll back down. On eight different occasions between the late second quarter and late fourth quarter, the Grizzlies cut the Suns lead to four or less only to have the Suns answer with a basket. A Shannon Brown drive. A Markieff Morris three. A Luis Scola jumper. A Goran Dragic bank shot. A Dragic three. A Marcin Gortat jumper. A Jared Dudley three. A Jermaine O'Neal jumper. Answers coming from everywhere.

It's common in NBA games for teams to expend so much energy coming back from a big deficit that they run out of gas before they can cross the finish line, and this one sure felt that way. But a three-foot Zach Randolph runner with 1:30 left in regulation finally pushed the boulder on top of the hill, if only for a minute. And a short Rudy Gay jumper with the shot-clock off and a subsequent defensive stop sent it to overtime. And that's when Zach Randolph — magnificent all night — planted that damn rock.

Man of the Match: Quincy Pondexter needs an honorable mention for a dynamic 14-point first half that was instrumental in keeping a flailing team upright. But Zach Randolph owned this game in a way no Grizzlies player has owned a game since Randolph took over Game 6 against the Thunder in May of 2011.

"It reminded me of the two years ago Zach,” Marc Gasol said afterward, speaking for us all. “He had that little bounce. You can see it in his eyes with the eyebrows.”

Randolph topped 30 points (38 on 15-22 shooting) and 20 rebounds (22) for the first time since that OKC series (where he hit each mark in separate games), and he was dialed-in from early on, drop-stepping, spinning around a defender, and rising up for a dunk.

“When he starts spinning and dunking, you know it's going to be special,” Mike Conley said.

And it was.

Randolph already had 32 and 17 at the end of regulation, but in overtime he rose up to another level. Among his 6 points and 5 rebounds in overtime were back-to-back-to-back possessions that proved decisive. On each of the first two, Randolph blocked a shot at the rim on the defensive end, grabbed the rebound, and then set up on the right block at the other end. Catch. Turn. Jab-Step. Score. Repeat.

On the third, Darrell Arthur's man left him to double Randolph hard and Randolph kicked out to Rudy Gay, who swung the ball to Arthur for straight-away jumper that all-but-iced the game. Somewhere in there the game became a symphony of “ZEE-BOW” chants, conducted from courtside by an inactive Tony Allen.

Nightly Number: Zach Randolph's isolation magnificence and offensive rebounding (7, most of which went were converted into layups) masked a game where not much was working for the Grizzlies' offense. The team had only 13 assists on 40 made field-goals, while shooting 4-19 from three-point range.

The Match-Up: Phoenix's under-recognized Goran Dragic won the point guard battle tonight against Mike Conley, who had his worst game since opening night against the Clippers. A rangy shot-maker, Dragic finished with 19 points and 7 assists on 8-15 shooting. Conley struggled with 11 points on 2-9 shooting and a startling one assist in more than 42 minutes of play. Conley's lost-ball turnover in the final minute of regulation was brutal, but he did bracket it with big plays — jetting past Luis Scola to pick up a loose ball and draw a clear-path foul and then opening overtime with a bailout three-pointer at the end of the opening possession that put the Grizzlies ahead for good.

The Jacob Riis Report: This game doesn't really change my take on the Suns, who have a good young point guard, a currently underachieving center (Marcin Gortat), a few guys (Jared Dudley especially) who would be nice sixth or seventh men on a good team, and no upside to see. The plan is not apparent. Two things of note tonight: Jermaine O'Neal had a throwback game with 12 points off the bench, joining the likes of Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and Jason Kidd in what has been quite the fountain-of-youth movement for the NBA this season. Secondly, Suns back-up point guard Diante Garrett was the first player I've seen in an NBA game this season that I'd never heard of.

Tweet O’ the Game: Nobody Memphians revel in more than Z-Bo. They see themselves, surrounded by bigger New Yorks and LA's, getting the tip-in anyway. — @geoff_calkins

Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improved to 13-3 and maintained their slim lead over the surging Oklahoma City Thunder and dread San Antonio Spurs.

Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies have another two days off before heading to New Orleans to face the soon-to-be Pelicans Friday night.

Announced Attendance: 14,481

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