Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale needed someone on his squad to step up if they were going to pull off a win against the San Antonio Spurs.
Zach Randolph answered the call.
The 35-year-old power forward had a turn-back the clock performance Thursday night, going for 29 points and eight boards in 29 minutes.
“Z-Bo was fantastic,” Fizdale said in his postgame interview. “It just means so much to him.”
To his credit, Fizdale had a near perfect game plan. After ranting about the officiating following Memphis’ Game 2 loss, Fizdale shook up the starting lineup, moving Randolph and James Ennis III into the starting lineup while relegating Wayne Selden and JaMychal Green to the bench. The change worked wonders for the Grizzlies; Randolph provided the extra scoring punch that the first unit needed (while also giving some much-needed help on the boards), while Ennis III gave the team a boost on the defensive end, culminating in Memphis’ 105-94 win.
With Randolph’s insertion into the lineup also came an increase in the team’s physicality. There was much more “grit and grind” and less of whatever it was the Grizz called defense in the first two games.
“Their aggressiveness put us in mud,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said.
Memphis will need a repeat performance if they want to win Game 4.
Game 3 was, by far, the best we’ve seen this Grizzlies team in the series. Very much a back and forth affair in the first half, the Grizzlies went into the break up 50-46. In the second half they went to work, limiting the Spurs to 17 third quarter points and heading into the final frame with an 18 point lead. Slowing the game down disrupted the Spurs’ offense significantly; Kawhi Leonard—who had one FGA in the third quarter—especially.
Conversely, the Spurs looked nothing like the team that won 63 games during the regular season. While they remained competitive early, their offense sputtered throughout the second half. Tony Parker had zero points on four shots (for the game) and Leonard had just two points before taking a seat at the beginning of the fourth quarter—along with the rest of the starters, who Popovich benched early in the final frame. In all, it was a pretty lackluster effort by a team that is much better than their play indicated Thursday.
Kawhi and the Spurs need to get back to their game if they want to rebound from this loss. There was a clear lack of comfort playing in the FedEx Forum and San Antonio is going to have to find a way to deal with Memphis’ rediscovered physicality. Leonard needs to shake off whatever plagued him in the second half — the Spurs ride or die with their superstar and if he isn’t right, neither is the rest of the squad.
As for Memphis, they need to continue to slow the pace. As Popovich said, when the Grizzlies played tough, San Antonio wasn’t able to generate much on the offensive end. Twin towers Marc Gasol and Randolph need to remain physical while Mike Conley needs to continue running the team’s offense. Fizdale and his squad have a winning formula here and they need to roll with it if they want to keep this series going.
Who Wins Game 4?
Memphis played much better than San Antonio in Game 3, better than the final score indicates. With Fizdale and the home crowd behind them, the Grizzlies came out looking to redeem themselves and that’s exactly what they did. With the momentum on their side, Memphis should have the advantage heading into Game 4. However, don’t expect San Antonio to come out flat like it did in the second half of Game 3, especially with Popovich hounding them.
Game 4 will be closer, but an energized Memphis squad should be able to get the job done and even up the series before going back to San Antonio for Game 5.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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