Grizzlies face Game 7 without top scorer Randolph
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Memphis faces an enormous task Saturday night in Game 7 against the Thunder, with top scorer Zach Randolph suspended and point guard Mike Conley nursing a strained right hamstring.
However, the Grizzlies remain confident. They’ve won three of the four overtime games in the series, and their gritty play has forced scorers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out of their comfort zones. Memphis has built its reputation on toughness, and the Grizzlies will depend on it to try to overcome the odds.
“We’ve still got to lead with our defense because that’s what got us here,” Memphis guard Mike Miller said. “At the same time, we’ve got to be a little more aggressive offensively. We’ve got to play at a little bit faster pace, knock down shots, let it fly, have fun.”
Randolph was suspended for punching Oklahoma City center Steven Adams in the jaw late in Game 6. Coach Dave Joerger said Randolph feels “awful” and “terrible” about the situation. He averaged 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in the series.
Conley said Memphis had to make major changes after learning of the NBA’s decision. Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos likely will see increased minutes.
“It changes a lot,” Conley said. “It changes up our whole game plan with Zach out. We have to try to adjust, make some quick adjustments. We’re going to have to rely on a lot of guys tonight that haven’t played a lot during the series. This is Game 7, so we have no excuses. We’ve got to go out there and try to win.”
The suspension comes at a bad time, but the Grizzlies have had limited time to think about the league’s decision.
“Fair or not fair, it’s the situation that we’re in,” center Marc Gasol said. “We’ve got to move on. We’ve got to play. We’ve got to play the best we can and compete tonight.”
Conley was injured late in Game 6. He said Saturday he plans to play, but the hamstring still hurts, and he likely wouldn’t play if it was a regular-season game.
The team is short-handed because No. 2 point guard Nick Calathes is out for the series with a drug suspension. Memphis is matching up with Westbrook, who Joerger calls one of the top three athletes in the league, and it’s a daunting task for the Grizzlies.
“I just want to go out there and give what I’ve got for my team, whatever that is,” Conley said. “I want to go as hard as I can for as long as I can and just see what we can do.”
Joerger’s team has dealt with injuries and lineup changes all season. Tony Allen missed 27 games this season, Gasol 23 and Conley nine.
“We’ve had to learn to play with different groups, different units,” Conley said. “We’re confident in the guys that are going to come in and play for us. They’re going to come in and play big minutes and we’re going to go out there and do what we do and be loose and try to win the game.”
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