The series changed the moment Zach Randolph started being fed in the paint to do his thing, and the Memphis Grizzlies dominated ever since, winning four consecutive games to take their first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers in four straight games. Marc Gasol was excellent and Mike Conley shined in the point guard duel, but Randolph’s dominance down low seemed to be the difference maker in a no-hope situation.
The Clippers just went from bad to worse as the serious progressed, partially losing Blake Griffin along the way. He gave only 14 minutes in game 6, but it wasn’t enough to stop Memphis from winning 118-105 and advance without home court advantage into the semifinals in the West, facing the vulnerable Oklahoma City Thunder in a repeat of a wonderful series from two years ago.
In a battle between small-ball (Clippers) and the Grizzlies usual big, forceful style, the big man won. The Clippers did enjoy some success with it, getting huge nights from Chris Paul (28 points) and Matt Barnes (with 30), but Memphis stayed big and close to what’s been successful for them all season long, going to the line 47 times (twice as much as the Clippers) and had no problem making the most of double teams, hitting 8 three pointers on 19 attempts.
Randolph led the way with 23 points, 5 rebound and 4 assists, being the most efficient of all in the game with 8-12 from the field and 7-8 from the line. Randolph took advantage of the smaller defenders, shooting 60% from the field, his best output on post-up plays this series, scoring 14 points on such plays.
The Clippers tried to run, but couldn’t create turnovers (10) to give them what worked so well during the regular season. Throughout the series, nothing looked organized on both ends of the floor, and if it wasn’t for Chris Paul being as good as he is, this probably would have ended a lot sooner. And even Paul might have lost his own individual matchup as Mike Conley gave big night after big night, capping off the series with 23 points and 7 assists.
In games which both Tony Allen (17 points) and Jarryd Bayless (18 points) score in double figures, it must mean Memphis were doing almost everything right. Each player made the right decision at the right time as the Clippers defense crumbled before them, and a team everyone said won’t have the offense to pull through ended up scoring at least 103 points on each of their final three games, while keeping the Clippers below 100 four times during the series.
It was a physical battle the Clippers showed up too late for. It will be similar against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are down one important man for that kind of fight. The Grizzlies have played the best basketball in the West during the playoffs so far, and are feeling more confident than one might expect from a team about to meet the number one team in the conference.