Zachary Evelyn Randolph, where have you been all my life! The big fella had 25 points and 19 rebounds as he carried the Grizzlies to an 86-70 victory Wednesday night over the Jazz, eliminating them from postseason contention. He was dominant throughout the game, making a good percentage of his free throws, working for position and rebounds, and scoring at will. This is the Zach Randolph the Grizzlies believed in when they traded Rudy Gay, and this is the Zach Randolph they'll need in the playoffs if they have any hope of advancing past the first round. Was this just another show of ZBo's dominance over Utah, or did the big fella finally wake up from his long slumber in time for the "real" season to start? Memphis fans or clinging to the hope of the latter.
In a game that was featured on ESPN, that the majority of the NBA world was watching, that had playoff implications for four or five teams, which could have added more flair the Lakers' Saga, both teams came out flat. For the majority of the first half, there was very little energy in the building, from the fans or the players.
The Grizzlies first bucket came about two minutes into the game off a Tony Allen jumper, and they trailed 6-2 early. Every Memphis fan held their collective breaths as Zach Randolph came down with a rebound and landed on Al Jefferson's foot. He immediately started jumping on one leg, and he was clearly in pain. It looked as if he aggravated his ankle injury, and there was a Forum wide groan. Clearly, he wasn't feeling any of the effects the rest of the way. At the end of one, the score was knotted up at 17, neither team shooting above 35%, in a nationally televised game, one that Utah had to win to have any hope of advancing to the playoffs.
The second quarter offered much of the same. Poor shooting, flat play, and a lack of energy. The Grizz would take a two-point lead into halftime, after leading by as many as seven in the quarter. The 6-2 run over the last two minutes of the quarter was the closest Utah would have to a run all night.
In the third quarter, both the crowd and the Grizzlies came out with much more energy. Memphis built a 14-point lead during the quarter, leading by as many as 16 at one point. Zach Randolph had 12 points in the quarter to lead the Grizzlies, and five of the seven Grizzlies buckets made in the quarter were assisted on.
Utah would draw things to within 12 in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies bench and starters would ultimately smother their offense into submission. It was highly a disappointing effort from the Jazz. They never once looked like they were playing in a game that would decide their season, never once showed a sense of urgency or desperation. They just came out and played uninspired basketball, and their 70 total points, 32 in the second half, were more than enough proof of that. The defining moment in the game for me was when both the Jazz and Grizzlies were scrambling on the floor for a loose ball. It ended up in the hands of Mike Conley who managed to kick it to ZBo for a two handed slam. The Jazz needed that ball more, and they needed that win more, but they didn't fight nearly as hard for it.
That's not to say that all of the players didn't care or gave up, Al Jefferson came to play, finishing with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Gordon Hayward and Mo Williams were both visibly upset as they passed me on the way through the visitors tunnel. But in a game you had to win, where you had to do everything you could and leave it all out on the court, Utah just didn't bring it, and the result is a much longer offseason.
56 wins, 24 on the road. It's been a long, historic, wild ride. Luckily, we're just recapping the end of the regular season. The best is yet to come.