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Grizzlies could face the Spurs without Zach Randolph for first time since 2012

The Grizzlies are likely to be without their surly yeoman for another game. But does his absence affect their game plan?

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Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

If you've been watching the Grizzlies for the past few years, you know that the 21 points Zach Randolph laid down on the Spurs a few weeks ago is a statistical anomaly. Ever since the big guy pounded San Antonio out of the playoffs in 2011, they've made it a point to pack the paint and take Z-Bo out of the game. In the past 10 meetings between Zach and SAS (regular season), he's averaged a paltry 13.1 PPG -- one of his lowest point averages against any team in the NBA.

And for years now, his buddy Marc Gasol has watched this tale unfold, as even the laser pointed passes of Big Spain couldn't cut through the densely guarded paint for Zach to get his offensive rhythm going. But Marc's ability to work outside the paint has allowed himself to find an active role to combat the tactics of San Antonio, as evidenced by the 28 and 26 points he's respectively scored on them in the two games this season, pushing his average over the last 10 SAS meetings (regular season) to 17.6 PPG.

But without Z-Bo to draw those defenders away from Marc, will the Spurs look to utilize the same game plan on the Wendigo? They might, but Marc's passing skills make it a dangerous game to play, especially now that the Grizzlies are finding some better luck from beyond the arc.

If we go back to the last two times Memphis played San Antonio without Zach Randolph (*reminder: these are not the most recent occasions of a Spurs beat down on the Grizz), we dial it back to January/February of 2012. Memphis had lost their playoff savior to a torn MCL while witnessing the disappointing return of "superstar" Rudy Gay to the court. In those two games, Gay scored 19 points while shooting 9/33 from the floor. Additionally, the Grizzlies as a team shot 7/22 from three and only assisted on 43% of their made field goals.

The Grizzlies haven't shot the lights out against the Spurs this season, but they do have more consistent weapons from long range (2014 Conley, Vince Carter, Courtney Lee -- compared to 2012 Conley, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo) and in their two games this season the Grizzlies have assisted on 56.5% of their made field goals. They now have ball movement instead of black holes, and that ball movement works two-fold by getting them better shots while also wearing out their opponents' legs. This will be an important element to hone in on since Memphis will be without the physical presence of Z-Bo, but the development of the Grizzlies bench and the rise of Marc Gasol should be enough to give the reigning NBA champs another run for their money.

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