Randolph, Grizzlies on the rebound again
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Zach Randolph’s miserable Western Conference finals debut led to a sleepless night and a long film session.
The All-Star power forward and his Memphis Grizzlies are hardly down and out, though. In both rounds of the playoffs so far, Memphis has lost Game 1 before rallying back to knock out the Los Angeles Clippers and then the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This time, Randolph had his worst game ever in the playoffs, managing two points in a 105-83 blowout. His only lower-scoring game in 40 playoff appearances was when he played 1 minute as a rookie for Portland in a 2002 game.
“It’s more frustrating than embarrassing,” said Randolph, who missed his first seven shots in Game 1. “It’s basketball. It happens to the best of them.
“Muhammad Ali, he got knocked down before. What made him the greatest fighter in the world is he always bounced back.”
It took the Grizzlies two games to get off the mat in the first round, when they suffered a 21-point blowout at Los Angeles and then lost on a Chris Paul buzzer-beater in Game 2. Memphis then won the next four.
There weren’t as many adjustments needed in Round 2, when Kevin Durant’s spectacular finish lifted Oklahoma City to a two-point win in the opener. Again, the Grizzlies won four straight to advance.
So, the panic button is nowhere in sight for these comeback kids with Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.
“That’s what you do in life. Every time you have a bad moment, you’ve got to bounce back and get up and go again,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “You have a bad day, you’ve got to get up the next morning and make it a good day. Every team has lost games that have been really bad, they’ve lost one-point buzzer-beaters, all of those types of things.
“If you’re going to be in life and live, you’ve got to get up and go do it again and try to be better.”
After last year’s West finals, the Spurs are wary of feeling good about any series lead. San Antonio won the first two games at home last year, and then lost four in a row to the Thunder.
“Everything can change real fast,” point guard Tony Parker said.
The Spurs had a surprisingly easy time against the NBA’s best defense in Game 1, shooting 53 percent and making a franchise postseason-record 14 3-pointers on just 29 attempts. It took Memphis too long to settle in during its first conference finals appearance, and San Antonio was up 17 by the end of the first quarter and 20 in the second quarter.
“We found out it wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Hollins said. “It was a lot of just out of position, playing with hyper speed and doing things that we don’t normally do because of the moment and not just playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
The mistakes were many. Point guard Mike Conley said Memphis needs to pick up its defense on Parker beyond the 3-point line and keep him from penetrating the lane so easily to set up the 3-point shooters around him. Once in scramble mode, the Grizzlies over-helped and left too many openings.
On offense, the ball got stuck, which allowed the Spurs’ defense to recover and wipe out any scoring opportunities for Randolph around the basket.
“All the things that we did wrong — no pace, no moving the ball, no running back, no communicating — if we do all that good and we are who we are and we lose, now we’re going to see,” center Marc Gasol said. “It’s hard to get a lot of information about that last game because we just played so poorly.”
Game 2 provides a clean slate to try again, and Memphis hasn’t had two straight poor games yet this postseason.
“We adjust, I think, pretty well to teams and this is no different. We have to come out, make the same adjustments, stick to those adjustments and trust them because this team is so disciplined that they’re not going to stop what they’re doing,” Conley said. “They do what they do very well. They’re the best in the league at it.”
The Spurs were hesitant to take too much credit for what went right.
“The ball happened to go into the basket,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a game. Some nights you make two, some nights you make 14. That’s a rarity. But there’s never really a reason. ... We didn’t run anything magical to get the shots. They just went in.”
It was quite the turnaround from the last round, when San Antonio made 44 percent and struggled to make shots consistently.
“I’m a math guy,” said Matt Bonner, who made four of his five 3-point attempts. “It’s highly improbable we’re going to shoot at the clip we did last game. They’ve got the best defense in the league. They’re going to come out and make adjustments and play better on defense for sure.”