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The Return Of Z-Bo The Great

By 05.14.11
Zach Randolph

Zach Randolph (photo. Nike)


For four games, Zach Randolph was held down. His shooting percentages dropped (never hitting above 36 percent). But the odds that the NBA’s Cinderella would go another 48 playing like Oliver Miller? 1 to 10. Or something like that. Randolph took over Game 6 in the fourth quarter, helping Memphis grind out a 95-83 win to send it back to Oklahoma City for Game 7. Randolph (30 points, 13 rebounds) was a beast throughout the final quarter, scoring on drop steps and hook shots. He also hit three or four jumpers right over the top of Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins knew his big man needed more space, and started O.J. Mayo (16 points, four steals) because of that. It made a huge difference. In the first half, Memphis was in trouble. But once their leader picked it up, the game changed. As only Mark Jackson could say, Z-Bo has “developed a relationship with the rim.” If they’re really that close, we wonder what Randolph named it. Papa Gino? … The Grizzlies defense was incredible in the second half, holding the Thunder to just 29 points and grinding their way back into the game after falling behind late in the first half. They doubled Kevin Durant (3-for-14, 11 points) at times, and played him extremely physical. He never gained a rhythm, instead lofting jumpers from the top of the key nearly every time he touched it. People have complained for the past few weeks about Russell Westbrook (27 points) not getting the ball enough to Durant, but last night, KD didn’t want it. He looked shy, and rattled. He’s letting Memphis push him around and dictate where he gets the ball…surprising for the league’s best scorer. If you had never watched basketball before, and we told you in the second half that Durant was one of the best players in the world, you would’ve raised an eyebrow. He was Kate Moss at 10 a.m. after a long night out: a step slow on everything, energy-depleted and content to chill 25 feet from the rim … So when is someone going to call out Scott Brooks? We guess we just did. The Thunder’s fourth-quarter execution has been terrible for weeks now. Besides looking like he’s in the wrong sport (does that guy not look exactly like a typical hockey coach?), Brooks might be out of his element this deep in the playoffs … Al Green and NBA super fan Jimmy Goldstein were both in the house, raising the level of amazing-ness to near Downey Jr.-in-Tropic-Thunder levels … Right from the start, the game was physical and the players were ornery. Shane Battier, Westbrook, Randolph and Serge Ibaka all got into it early. Jeff Van Gundy, who coached Battier in Houston, called him sneaky dirty. Whatever’s in the rulebook, he’s going to use. He zinged in, got a shot in on Westbrook, and then was gone. We haven’t seen that kind of backpedaling since ‘Melo slapped Mardy. Sorry for the second Anchorman reference in as many nights, but the first quarter felt like the beginning of the TV-station street brawl. We were just waiting on someone to pull out a trident and kill somebody. And within the first two minutes, the Thunder had already stacked up four turnovers. Not a good sign. It went back and forth until OKC asserted themselves with a 16-4 run late in the first half. The Notorious J.V.G. said he could feel the tension, could see that the crowd was nervous. He was right. Then, back-to-back threes from James Harden (14 points) put the Thunder up 13. In the second quarter, Oklahoma City outrebounded the hosts 16-4 … The lead wouldn’t last in the second half. Take away the Game 5 blowout and this series has been incredibly up and down. It’s so evenly matched that a 15-point second-half lead is nothing. The teams just trade body blows and haymakers, never dying, always retaliating. Back and forth, we’ve been on our toes every minute, every possession. It’s like that pretty girl Denise that you discover lives down the hall from you during freshman year. One day, she’s leading you on, smiling, giving you the digits. The next night, you text her, and she doesn’t get back until the party’s already over. One day she’s wearing the skimpiest skirt you’ve ever seen, flaunting it all right in front of you. The next, it’s sweats with the logo nearly worn off. Six games in and we still don’t know what to expect. It’s all added up to by far the most exciting playoff series thus far, and figures to be a complete war in Game 7 … Despite all of that, we still like OKC back home in Game 7. Who does everyone else have? … Darrell Arthur very nearly had the dunk of the playoffs … Of course, Friday the 13th had to be Dennis Rodman‘s birthday. We aren’t sure how he celebrated, but given his recent history, it probably involved dozens of droopy-eyed strippers, Henny and a whole lot of finger food … We’re out like Durant operating in the paint.

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TOPICS#KEVIN DURANT
TAGSDENNIS RODMANJEFF VAN GUNDYMEMPHIS GRIZZLIESO.J. MayoOKLAHOMA CITY THUNDERRUSSELL WESTBROOKScott BrooksSHANE BATTIERSmackZACH RANDOLPH

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