The Grizzlies’ Matchup Nightmare Blows Up The Knicks; Portland’s Duo Outshines James Harden

By: 11.17.12
Zach Randolph (photo. Nike)

Zach Randolph (photo. Nike)

One day after New York stayed as the NBA’s last unbeaten team by being selfless and smart (and ridiculously accurate from range), Memphis usurped the Knicks as the NBA’s best team right now by luring them in, then springing the trap. Start spreading the news: Memphis, owner of a seven-game win streak, is mowing down the league’s best teams like the hero of a Tarantino film. Just 10 percent of the season in the Griz are 7-1, but it’s still apt to be cautious about being too effusive with praise. Still, how can anyone deny these signature wins the Griz have just rattled off in their last three games: an 18-point win over Miami, a 10-point win in Oklahoma City and Friday night’s 105-95 win over New York that wasn’t as close as the score looks. The linchpin has been power forward Zach Randolph (20 points, 15 boards), who’s averaging 14.1 boards per game this season. By sticking Rudy Gay (17 points) on Carmelo Anthony (20 points, five turnovers and five big fouls), it shielded Z-Bo from ‘Melo’s quickness. There were a few questionable calls that went against New York but they flipped a switch we hadn’t seen since last season, turning a team that moved the ball so well (and with such a newfound, level-headed composure) into a stop-and-stare offense. Well Anthony got a T, Rasheed Wallace dusted off the cobwebs to pick up a T, and Mike Woodson got one, too. There was a brief rally to close it out, but the Knicks shot themselves in the foot by losing their head in this one. While the Knicks were falling behind by 20, Marc Gasol continued to be a revelation with his footwork, getting 24 points. Who needs Hakeem Olajuwon‘s lessons when you could just study with Marc Gasol? … The good news was Philly didn’t shoot 29 percent again in its 99-93 win over Utah. The bad news is that even with a feel-good win, nothing will fix the void left by Andrew Bynum at center — still. Bynum has been classified as simply out indefinitely. His knee hasn’t responded to treatment. Jrue Holiday continues to ball out in this unbalanced offense with 26 points. Tyrone Corbin took DeMarre Carroll out of mothballs for Utah and it, quite literally, worked perfectly: He didn’t miss a shot all night for his 17 points. … Brook Lopez talked with us today about his love for comic books, among other things. To be honest we’d never thought about having a turntable for our car in our garage like he has at the Barclays Center, but Lopez makes it sound pretty dope. … Like Lopez, Roy Hibbert can’t shake his enigma status this season. They each have No. 1-potential contracts, but naturally are more comfortable being complementary in an offense. Last night, Hibbert changed the luck of his so-far horrifying season with 14 points and eight boards, but most importantly, he shot seven free throws. It’s far above his middling 1.7 per game average that befits a backup shooting guard, not a 7-footer. Still, baby steps: His three buckets in the fourth quarter were big to push Indiana’s lead out of Dallas’ reach in the 103-83 win after going just 1-of-6 in the third quarter from the field. … Hit the jump to hear about Damian Lillard’s takeover. …

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Damian Lillard

Portland gave $44 million to a role player this offseason, then the keys to its future to a rookie point guard. Friday’s OT win against Houston has Portland looking smart for those moves. Nicolas Batum ripped off 35 points with five blocks (including a critical snuff on James Harden (29) with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation) including 11 straight points at one juncture. LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 but the story continues to be rookie Damian Lillard‘s maturation to lead the Blazers from 15 points down. The last half of the fourth quarter and overtime, when he dropped 16 points alone, looked like one of his famed pre-draft workouts where he couldn’t miss if you gave him shock therapy. He had 27 points thank to shots Toney Douglas later called “hope to Jesus” attempts. Consider that prayer answered. … Mike D’Antoni watched his Lakers roll up 114 points in a 12-point win over Phoenix from the team’s training room, with Kobe Bryant scoring 31 while looking like a new man. For one, Bryant can do basically anything he wants until D’Antoni gets his system installed and Bean Bryant is the team’s default operating system. Two, he still hates playing Phoenix with the fire of a thousand, uh, suns. Steve Nash will miss another week with his injured leg, the team announced, a definite setback for this team as it tries to finally hit the ground running. … Remember the wall-to-wall fan scene at the Chinese airport when T-Mac arrived a few weeks back that looked like it was 2003 all over again? His first dunk in the Chinese league looks like something out of his mid-2000s glory days, too. … Earlier Friday we wrote how Orlando’s J.J. Redick (23 points) was a player to watch in last night’s games and he delivered with a go-ahead triple with less than a minute left as the Magic cleared the woeful Pistons, 110-106. Greg Monroe can take solace that his left-handed facial dunk on rook Andrew Nicholson was one of the nastiest of the night. … In other games, the Kings had a players-only meeting after Atlanta smoked them, 112-96. Kyle Korver‘s five triples and 22 points broke the Kings’ back every time. … Golden State beat a nine-man Minnesota rotation, 106-98, with David Lee getting 18 and 13. … In one of the night’s most unusual moments, New Orleans coach Monty Williams and Kevin Durant (27 points) started jawing at each other to close the first half. Starters had to separate the two in Oklahoma City’s 110-95 win. Lost in all that sound and fury, signifying nothing, was the kind of ball pressure Russell Westbrook (10 points) unloaded on the Hornets. He rarely let Greivis Vasquez feel comfortable, or even get the ball into a set. … We’re out like Bynum.

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