Grizzlies finally beat Spurs in postseason
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For years, Zach Randolph dominated games for the Memphis Grizzlies as a starter. This season, first-year coach David Fizdale asked Randolph to embrace a sixth-man role.
The veteran power forward did so, and with good results. However, after the Grizzlies lost the first two games of their first-round Western Conference playoff series to the San Antonio Spurs, Fizdale had a new assignment for Randolph: start Game 3 on Thursday night and try to change the game.
“He was like a secret weapon tonight,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said after Randolph scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Grizzlies’ 105-94 win over the Spurs at FedExForum.
The Grizzlies snapped their streak of 10 consecutive postseason losses to the Spurs.
Randolph had help from Conley, who contributed 24 points and eight assists, and center Marc Gasol, who finished with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Randolph started slowly, scoring just two points in the first quarter. He had 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the second quarter, and Memphis went into halftime with a 50-46 advantage.
He scored eight points in the third quarter as the Grizzlies outscored the Spurs 31-17 and led 81-63 entering the fourth.
”Z-Bo was fantastic,“ Fizdale said, using Randolph’s nickname. (Winning) just matters so much to him.”
The Spurs jump-started the Grizzlies’ second-half effort by committing two turnovers in the first minute.
“Like we were out on a picnic someplace,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Popovich was angry enough that after calling a timeout, he benched all five starters for a while.
“That’s the type of coach he is,” said Kawhi Leonard, who led the Spurs with 18 points. “He wants us to understand what’s going on and how important the opportunity is for us.”
When the Grizzlies upset the Spurs as a No. 8 seed in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, Randolph was dominant. At 35, such dominance might not come his way again, but he was stirring the echoes Thursday night.
“Being aggressive, picking my spots,” Randolph said. “The guys were looking for me, giving me the ball.”
Popovich pulled his starters again early in the fourth quarter and most did not return as Memphis stretched its lead to as much as 22 points. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge was the team’s second-leading scorer with 16 points, and he grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Grizzlies committed just five turnovers while cashing 12 San Antonio turnovers for 13 points.
“Our defensive intensity set us apart,” Marc Gasol said. “Us not turning the ball over, that was huge -- not allowing them to run.”
Said Popovich: “They put us in the mud.”
The Spurs shot 47.2 percent from the floor and went 10-for-24 from 3-point range for 41.7 percent. Memphis shot 50.6 percent from the field while going 9-for-22 from distance for 40.9 percent.
The Grizzlies handed out 21 assists, six coming from Conley’s backup -- rookie Andrew Harrison. Conley also said his focus on distributing the ball is helping his overall game.
“I‘m looking to make more plays for guys and it’s actually making it easier to score,” said Conley, who got to the free-throw line for eight shots and made all of them.
In Game 3, the Grizzlies made 18 of 20 free throws for 90 percent while the Spurs went 16-for-28 from the line for just 57.1 percent. Fizdale was fined $30,000 for his comments about the officiating after Game 2. One of his best lines about the free-throw disparity, “take that for data,” inspired T-shirts seen around FedExForum. When Fizdale walked onto the court shortly before tip-off, the crowd roared.
“Pretty cool,” he said. “I don’t take those moments for granted.”
Nor will he take anything for granted now that his team has made it a competitive series.
“I‘m just happy it’s 2-1 and we got a chance to tie the series,” he said.
Said Randolph: “We’ve just got to carry on and put this behind us. We’ve got Saturday to get ready for.”
NOTES: In addition to starting PF Zach Randolph on Thursday, Memphis coach David Fizdale put SF James Ennis in the first five and moved PF JaMychal Green and SG Wayne Selden to the bench. Selden led the bench scoring with 10 points. ... The Spurs’ last lead in Game 3 came with a minute left in the first half on a put-back by F LaMarcus Aldridge. ... Off the bench in Game 3 for San Antonio, G Kyle Anderson had 15 points and G Patty Mills scored 11 points. ... Asked if he was frustrated with his team after a dismal third quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said: “Coaches are always frustrated. It doesn’t matter if you’re winning or losing, there are always things you can improve and wish you were doing better.”