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Game Diary: Grizzlies 108, Suns 98

Last night Memphis witnessed the greatness of Zach Randolph first hand, but it took four quarters of miserable regulation time to get there. I was in the house. This is my game diary.

Nope. Still not bluffing.
Nope. Still not bluffing.
Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

The game started without Tony Allen, and Wayne Ellington started in his place. That’s how it was against the Detroit Pistons (who we beat, but never were able to blow out) and the San Antonio Spurs (and we know how that went). Hopefully Allen’s groin injury will heal in time for him to return to the court, because what happened in his absence, especially during the first quarter and part of the second, was not pretty.

10:50, 1Q: Marc Gasol scores the first two baskets of the game for the Grizzlies, starting what would be a great inside scoring quarter. At the end of the first frame, the Griz were losing 25–18, and 16 of the Grizzlies’ 18 points were Inside the Painted Area. (“The Painted Area” is my favorite thing Hubie Brown says.)

9:10, 1Q: Zach Randolph dunks the ball, something that doesn’t happen often. I had already made a note that Zach looked like he felt good, and the dunk only proved my hunch. By the 7:30 mark in the first quarter, the Grizzlies had 12 points, and Randolph had scored 8 of them.

6:11, 1Q: After a Rudy Gay make, Z-Bo’s mouthpiece falls out under the basket. He picks it up off the floor and runs back on defense holding his mouthpiece in his hand. He drops it again on the Griz logo at halfcourt, stops for a second, picks it up off the floor, shakes it, and puts it in his mouth, getting in position under the Suns basket just in time to rebound a missed Shannon Brown shot. How can you not love this guy?

1:38, 1Q: By this point, the Suns have put together a run, leading 21–16. They seem to be doing it mostly on free throws, with the Grizzlies unable to stop the Suns from driving to the basket and fouling out of frustration. Add to that a couple of ticky-tack offensive foul calls, and the Griz found themselves in real trouble at the end of the first. The Griz bench wasn’t playing well at this point, but neither were the starters.

0:20, 1Q: At this point in the game, the Grizzlies were getting out-grinded by the Suns, no two ways about it. The Suns were swatting balls, disrupting passing lanes, getting out in transition, and creating lots of contact on the offensive end, getting the Grizzlies in foul trouble faster than you can say “Hamed Haddadi.” Once Randolph and Gasol left the game, the Grizzlies stopped getting the ball inside — either because the Suns were denying the post entry past, or because they started settling for jump shots. At the end of the quarter, the Grizzlies trailed 25–18.

In between the first two quarters, two fans played three giant BBQ rib mascots in a half-court game of basketball, in which the fans were unable to score a basket. It was the Rendezvous 2 On ’Cue Challenge, which is a thing that can only happen in Memphis.

11:22, 2Q: The Grizzlies are losing 28–18. That’s ten points. At home. To the Phoenix Suns. Who are terrible. Sitting there watching the Grizzlies fail to make stop after stop was like slow, painful torture. Tony Allen was sorely missed, and on defense, it seemed like Goran Dragic and Luis Scola were both giving Mike Conley fits.

9:30, 2Q: Pondexter gets called for a foul because… Mike Conley got a rebound. The officiating in this game was pretty awful, but I’m not going to complain about it, because it was awful both ways. It wasn’t a situation like the Saturday night game in San Antonio where the refs made bad calls at the end of a close game that tilted the outcome. Against the Suns, they were just bad all night.

3:00, 2Q: Randolph sinks a pair of free throws, but the Grizzlies still trail 45–33. It was at this point that I started having trouble paying attention to the game and taking notes for this game diary because the Grizzlies looked so bad and the thought of blowing a home game to a team that isn’t very good this year — especially after the marquee wins the Grizzlies have had so far — filled me with anxiety. Actual excerpt from my in-game notes: “I hate watching this.”

0:53, 2Q: Quincy Pondexter makes 1 of 2 free throws to close the Suns’ lead to 47–43. The crowd has finally gotten into the game, mostly thanks for Pondexter’s refusal to stop fighting. Darrell Arthur and Pondexter are playing very well together, hounding the Suns’ ball handlers and disrupting the pick and roll. I love seeing Arthur back on the court for the Grizzlies. I’d forgotten how much I like watching that guy play. Welcome back, Darrell. We missed you.

Halftime: Just like all game, the Grizzlies got close and then the Suns went on a 5-point run, on a Shannon Brown jumper and a 3-point shot by Markieff Morris. At the half, Memphis trails 52–45, having gotten way down and fought back to stay even with the Suns. Both teams scored 27 in the second.

Memphis Athletic Ministries has the Junior Grizzlies come out and play an exhibition game at halftime, and these kids — who look to be 7 or 8 years old — shoot way better than I do. Especially the one on the blue team who looks like he’s 11. Maybe the Grizzlies should draft him with the second overall pick.

9:52, 3Q: Morris hits another three. You’d think somebody would close out on him after he hit that big shot to end the first half. This kind of stuff hounded the Grizzlies all night. They were unable to get stops once they’d pulled within 4 or 2 of Phoenix.

6:45, 3Q: Marc Gasol makes a nasty putback dunk, but it’s Z-Bo who already has 22 points and 14 rebounds. In the media seats, this is about the point at which we kept one eye on the game and one eye on the live box score, wondering just how many points Randolph would end up with. Answer: a lot.

1:50, 3Q: Wayne Ellington, after struggling for much of the game, and, really, since he burst into flames during the November game against the Miami Heat, makes a big three point shot. Ellington is a curious case of the “shooter” who really isn’t that great of a shooter. He gets hot, sure, but this season he’s shot well below his career averages. I expect his numbers to get better this year and get closer to his averages, but it can’t happen soon enough.

0:32, 3Q: The Grizzlies force a Diante Garrett (who?) turnover under the Suns basket and Marc Gasol scores on the ensuing possession, bringing the Grizzlies’ deficit to just 2 points. Of course, with 3 seconds left in the quarter, Gortat makes a 19-footer to push the lead back up to 4. I felt like the Grizzlies were never going to be able to get over the hump and tie the game. It felt like the Suns had an answer for everything we did. It was at this point I started sending Twitter DM’s to SOV Fearless Leader Tom Lorenzo asking him why I’d chosen to waste hours of my life covering this horrible basketball game. Tom talked me down.

11:15, 4Q: Darrell Arthur, trailing a Jerryd Bayless fast break, throws down a nasty dunk, reminding the Griz faithful that he is awesome. I’m going to take this moment to remind you of this from the Thunder playoff series of 2011. It was ruled a charge, but it’s still awesome:

8:51, 4Q: Jermaine O’Neal scores. Remember him? I thought he retired shortly after the ABA/NBA merger, but I guess being old doesn’t disqualify him from playing meaningful minutes.

5:25, 4Q: Suns run their lead back up to 88–82 on a Dragic layup. The Grizzlies are incapable of stopping Goran Dragic from scoring. They always have been, but now that Dragic is “the man” on this Suns team, it’s even harder. Dude is really, really good at basketball. It’d be fun to watch if he were doing it against any other team.

3:13, 4Q: The Grizzlies only trail 91–89. The building feels tense, but into it. Everyone knows this is a winnable game, and that this Grizzlies team is good enough to win if they can just manage to tie the game and get a single stop. It was at this point, during a pause in the action, that somebody in the club level seats yells out “Hey Scola! Not even your mother wants to keep you!” and I heard it across the building so I know Scola heard it.

1:52, 4Q: The Griz finally lock down the Suns, and Dragic airballs. P.J. Tucker can’t get a shot off, and the ball goes back to the Grizzlies on a shot clock violation. (Remember? Refs call those when we’re not playing the Spurs.) With 1:31 left in the game, Zach Randolph ties the game at 91, and the building erupts.

1:10, 4Q: Luis Scola fouls Mike Conley on a fast break layup instead of letting him score. He gets called for a clear path violation, which results in two free throws for Conley and Grizzlies’ ball. Mike makes one and misses one. Conley struggled box-score wise but he was able to make some plays when it mattered most.

0:26, 4Q: Marc Gasol fouls Dragic, who makes one of his two free throws. The Grizzlies trail 94–92, and everyone in the building knows this game is in danger of slipping away. The Grizzlies call a timeout, and out of that they run a set play. With 15.9 seconds left, Rudy Gay isolates and sinks one from 12 feet, tying the game. The Grizzlies rebound at the other end, sending the game into overtime. Zach Randolph already has 30-something points and a crapload of rebounds.

An excerpt from my in-game notes:

This is not the game the Griz wanted to send to overtime. The Suns are garbage and we still can’t keep them from scoring. Ideally, the Grizzlies will come out in overtime and stomp all over them, but I have my doubts.

4:34, OT: Mike Conley makes a 3 as the shot clock expires, giving the Grizzlies a 97–94 lead that they would never lose.

3:45, OT: The Z-Bo show starts. Zach makes a 5-ft shot over Gortat.

2:43, OT: Zach Randolph defensive rebound.

2:26, OT: Zach Randolph makes a jab-step jumper right on Marcin Gortat’s head. The crowd starts chanting “Z-Bo! Z-Bo!” and Tony Allen is cheering the loudest out of anybody from the Grizzlies’ bench.

2:13, OT: Zach Randolph defensive rebound.

1:50, OT: Zach sinks one of those impossibly high rainbows from 17 feet. It goes straight in. Zach mean-mugs his way back up the court. It’s at this point I think we need to start putting “I Don’t Bluff” on some sort of Zach Randolph T-shirt as soon as possible. 103–96 Griz.

1:21, OT: Gortat finally stops Randolph from taking him to the cleaners, but Zach kicks it out to Rudy Gay, who swings it to Darrell Arthur in the paint for an easy bucket. 105–96 Grizzlies. The crowd knows what’s happening. Zach Randolph came out in overtime and kicked sand all in the Phoenix Suns’ faces.

The Grizzlies outscored the Suns 14–4 in overtime, with six of those points coming from Zach Randolph. Zach finished the game with 38 points, 22 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Coach Lionel Hollins said in the post-game presser that Zach had 7 deflections, too. Clearly last night was Zach Randolph Night at FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies just had to get in a position for him to be able to put the team on his back.

It felt like Game 6 of the Spurs series, where Randolph said “give me the ball” and then went out and did bad things to the other team. When he’s got it like that, there’s no one that can stop him. A “Zach Randolph Game” is a thing of beauty, and we got one last night.

According to this tweet from @ESPNStatsInfo, Randolph was the first player with 38+ points and 22+ rebounds — but zero assists — since Moses Malone in 1985. It’s easy to gripe about the zero assists, but when he’s destroying everything in his path, who else are you going to give the ball to but Zach Randolph? Who else?