Remember when Zach Randolph was in foul trouble? Those were the days. Z-Bo went off Thursday night, throwing up a very Randolph-like 27-point, 11-round, 1-hug game that included six offensive boards and a 12-point victory for Memphis. Z-Bo dominated from the start. He was his usual self on the glass and in the paint – physical, strong, imposing. And that was really the story of the game.
After the Clippers won the rebounding battle in Game 1 and Game 2, Memphis reclaimed the glass Thursday, outrebounding the Clips 45-to-33 overall and 17-to-5 on the offensive glass. It was quite a showing from the Memphis bigs who looked like…well, they looked like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Now onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies needed vintage Z-Bo, and Randolph obliged by punishing Blake Griffin on the block early and often. Randolph’s game-high 27 points restored order in the frountcourt battle and allowed Marc Gasol to shine as a high-post genius once again.
LVP: Chris Paul. The Clippers are designed entirely around Chris Paul, and because of that, they won’t win many playoff games when he only scores eight points and turns the ball over five times. Paul was as bad as Randolph was good.
That was… Grizzlies basketball: The tables were turned in the first two games, but the Grizzlies got back to what they do best. With 17 offensive rebounds and 18 forced turnovers, Memphis secured enough extra possessions to grind out a crucial Game 3 victory.
- D.J. Foster
Tweet(s) of the Game
CWebb “Bill Laimbeer”? Zebo reminds you of him? Really a Detroit myopic view. He reminds us of Babe Ruth.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 26, 2013
Z-Bo and Matt Barnes back there was proof that “Game Recognize Game” is in fact one of the primary forces in the structure of the universe.
— Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) April 26, 2013
Some dude behind press row started yelling, “Outlier, Outlier!” after that Lamar Odom 3-pointer.
— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) April 26, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Andrew drops his goggles for shades and then criticizes Fred and Seerat for being too young to play the 1995-96 card game.
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The Memphis Slow Dance
If possession is 9/10th of the law, what’s the other tenth?
I’m inclined to say a dreadful shooting percentage, but the Clippers and the Grizzlies shot an identical 38.8 percent. Perhaps, the law in Memphis is different. At FedEx Forum, maybe possession is everything.
Memphis was able to comfortably hold the lead on a lackluster shooting night by dominating the possession battle, the modus operandi of grit n’ grind. The Grizzlies owned the offensive boards with 17 on the night, while Zach Randolph (six) had more than all of the Clippers combined (five). They slowed the Clippers down, limiting them to only nine fast-break points while stymying the halfcourt offense, forcing 16 turnovers – more than they have forced against the Clippers since they met on opening day.
All in all, the possession battle ended up entirely lopsided. The Grizzlies had 13 more shot attempts than the Clippers (80-to-67) and 15 more free throw attempts (38-to-23). The Clippers dominated the possession in Game 1 and it’s too close to eyeball for Game 2.
We probably should just forget about the other tenth.
- Michael Shagrin
Chris Paul’s Disappearing Act
One of the more perplexing advertisements this season is one in which Chris Paul vanishes into a puff of smoke while driving to the hoop. He then materializes in a restaurant booth occupied by Magic Johnson and, for some reason, Steve Nash, with whom Paul exchanges smirks before stealing a fry. On Magic’s suggestion, Paul vanishes and teleports once more so he can complete his drive to the hoop.
That’s pretty much what happened tonight, except that Paul never seemed to return to the game. As a contributor and as a leader, he just disappeared, finishing with eight points on 4-for-11 shooting to go with five turnovers and only four dimes. It’s not often the league’s best point guard has more turnovers than either made baskets or assists; it’s likely even rarer to win a playoff game when he does.
Maybe Paul was due for a regression to the mean — his career per-36-minute playoff average of 18.3 points might have suggested that he wouldn’t continue scoring like he did in games one and two — but he looked like a rookie against the Memphis wing defenders. What remains to be seen is whether the elite Paul will resurface on Saturday, or whether the Clippers’ series lead will go up in a cloud of smoke.
- Patrick James
I’ve Got Gasol, I’m Superbad
Through the first two games of the series against Memphis, the Clippers were picking and rolling every which way they wanted. Of course, that had to do with Chris Paul playing at Chris Paul levels. But tonight’s game told a different story.
Before the game began, Dikembe Mutombo presented Marc Gasol with his Defensive Player of the Year trophy and for the rest of the night, Gasol proceded to show exactly why he was the recipient of that award. The Clips tried picking and rolling early, but it seemed like Gasol blew it up each time. He’s so smart – defense is so intuitive for him – and tonight’s game showed why.
The Clips were uncomfortable on the offensive end without the bread and butter to start their meal. They went to Chauncey Billups at the start of the third quarter, playing Chris Paul off the ball. That’s a set the Clippers usually run throughout games, but it’s not one on which they often rely. It’s not usually as essential as it had to be Thursday. Basically, Gasol was so dominant that he forced the Clippers to depend heavily on a complementary set and any time the Grizzlies can get the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands – it doesn’t necessarily matter how – they’re putting themselves one step ahead.
- Fred Katz
Hitting on 16
In blackjack, if a dealer’s up-card is 7 or higher, the accepted practice is to hit until you reach at least 17. It’s part of a strategy developed by Prof. Edward Thorp of UCLA in the 1950s to optimize a player’s chances in a game built to favor the house.
For the third straight game in these playoffs, Eric Bledsoe played fewer minutes than Chauncey Billups or Jamal Crawford. But this isn’t an argument about whether Bledsoe is a better player than the other two, it’s simply a reminder that he has been particularly effective against this specific team.
According to NBA.com, in the regular season, the Clippers had an offensive rating of 102.2 and a defensive rating of 100.3 when Bledsoe was on the bench. When Bledsoe was in the game? An offensive rating of 113.3 and a defensive rating of 88.1. This stat is only versus the Grizzlies this season. A net rating of 1.9 when Bledsoe is on the bench and a net of 25.2 when he’s on the floor versus Memphis.
When you have 16 versus a high dealer up-card, the scariest thing to do is to hit. You could potentially bust. After all, the dealer could have a low card hidden, have to hit, and bust themselves. But mathematically, it’s prudent to assume the dealer has a 10 as their down-card. And not taking a card typically means you’ve ceded control to the dealer, hoping they’ll be unlucky. But playing smart isn’t about scratching for life just a bit longer, hoping to get lucky, or hoping your opponent gets unlucky. It’s about trusting the data and exerting as much influence over the situation as you’re allowed.
Heading into last night’s Game 3, of players with at least 10 minutes per game in the playoffs, Eric Bledsoe is third in the league in PER, first on the Clippers.
- Andrew Han
Z-Bo & Co. Get Back To Basics
Stat line aside, Randolph was simply dominant in the half-court on Thursday.
During the first two games in Los Angeles, he was present but largely ineffective. Between the foul trouble and the sagging Clippers’ defense willing to yield perimeter looks in order to load up on the Grizzlies’ post players, he was neutered.
But in Game 3, Randolph was insatiable. He made rim runs in half-court sets, gobbled up space behind the Clippers’ defense, outmuscling the Clippers’ big men on the glass and bullied them on the block.
Griffin, who was the presiding force down on the block in Game 2, had his hands full with Randolph on Thursday. The Clippers’ power forward managed only two rebounds and was whistled for five personal fouls, and much of that struggle came at the hands of Randolph.
“I know he is going to go over his right shoulder and go to that left hand, so I try to make him finish over the top,” Griffin said. “But he’s a great low-post player for a reason. You have to do your work early. You can’t let him catch deep and get you in that position.”
- Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com