Skip to content

Spurs shut down Zach Randolph in Western Conference Finals’ first major strategic move

May 20, 2013, 9:22 AM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game One Getty Images

Zach Randolph recovered the opening tipoff in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and he didn’t touch the ball again until the possession following the Grizzlies’ first timeout.

Moments after cameras caught Randolph and Tim Duncan sharing a laugh coming out of that timeout, Randolph ran a seemingly designed pick-and-pop with Mike Conley, caught the pass and drove toward the rim, where Duncan blocked him.

I don’t know whether Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner or Boris Diaw had the last laugh, but one of those four Spurs certainly did. They each took turns making Randolph and the Grizzlies’ offense look foolish in a 105-83 win over Memphis.

Randolph finished with a season-low two points on 1-of-8 shooting in 28 minutes, the lowest-scoring playoff game by a player who averaged at least 15 points per game in the regular season and played more than 20 minutes in the playoff game since Ray Allen in Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

In that game, Allen shot 0-for-13, but Celtics trailed by just two points in the final minute their game against the Lakers. Randolph’s Grizzlies, on the other hand, got hammered by 22.

It’s just not common for interior players to shoot so poorly, but the results are particularly devastating. Sometimes, outside shooters go cold. In the 2013 playoffs, Randolph became the 13th player to shoot 12.5 percent or worse from the field on at least eight shots – joining 11 guards and small forwards and a jump-shooting power forward (Serge Ibaka). Those 12 players’ teams went a reasonable and middling 5-7.

When a key low-post player like Randolph struggles so mightily, it’s very difficult for his team to even approach middling. Not only did Randolph shoot poorly, Memphis wasted valuable time on the shot clock trying to throw entry passes to him against a Spurs defense that fronted him. Randolph flubbed away one entry pass, and Tony Allen threw away another for two clearly Randolph-related turnovers. But several other Memphis offensive possessions were hindered as the Grizzlies passed the ball around the perimeter waiting for a clear passing lane.

In the rare times Memphis actually got the ball inside to Randolph – three of his shots, including his lone make, came directly after offensive rebounds (two of which Randolph got due to San Antonio’s fronting) – the Spurs effectively used double-teams.

After his horrid playoff game, Ray Allen said, “But I never hang my head. [Wednesday] is another opportunity to get right back on track.” Randolph would do well to emulate Allen’s focus, but not necessarily Allen’s vow to keep shooting.

If the Spurs again devote so much defensive attention to Randolph, the Grizzlies shouldn’t keep wasting shot clock to get him the ball. And maybe Memphis should give a few of Tony Allen’s and Tayshaun Prince’s minutes to Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless, two quality offensive players who will prevent San Antonio from double-teaming Randolph as easily.

Gregg Popovich made this series’ first major strategic move with San Antonio’s defensive gameplan against Randolph. It’s time for Lionel Hollins to respond.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker part of Spurs pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge (and they may be favorites)

    Jun 30, 2015, 1:01 AM EDT

    duncan-parker Getty Images

    The Spurs are right at the front of the line with the Lakers to win Aldridge over.

  2. Kyle Korver to have elbow surgery, no timetable for return

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two Getty Images

    We knew Korver would need ankle surgery, but this is a bit of a surprise.

  3. Report: LaMarcus Aldridge ‘leaning toward’ signing with Lakers

    Jun 29, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Getty Images

    Aldridge is expected to leave Portland, and the most recent report has the Lakers as the frontrunners to retain his services.

  4. Report: Kobe Bryant called DeAndre Jordan to recruit him to Lakers

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    kobe

    Clippers remain frontrunners to retain Jordan’s services; Lakers, Mavericks also in the mix.

  5. Report: Pero Antic leaving NBA to play overseas

    Jun 29, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    Pero Antic AP

    Antic was with the Hawks the last two seasons.

  6. Report: Chicago Bulls give Jimmy Butler max qualifying offer

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Getty Images

    The bottom line is this: Butler is going to be a Bull next season.

  7. Suns coach Hornacek tries to quell Bledsoe trade rumors

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:16 PM EDT

    Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

    The first rule of trading a player is to not look like you want to trade that player.

  8. LaMarcus Aldridge to meet with Raptors? That’s the report.

    Jun 29, 2015, 5:20 PM EDT

    Portland Trail Blazers v Miami Heat Getty Images

    Kind of hard to picture him going to the Raptors considering the other options on the table.

  9. Report: Dwyane Wade will not opt-in with Heat, to become free agent (as expected)

    Jun 29, 2015, 4:31 PM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Miami Heat Getty Images

    The real question for Wade and his effort to leverage the Heat: Who is going to give him more money than Miami?

  10. Report: Knicks front runner to land Arron Afflalo (and Greg Monroe, too)

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    The report says $12 million a year for Afflalo, that price seems steep.

  11. Report: Teams around league expect Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young to re-sign with Nets

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT

    Brook Lopez Brook Lopez

    They are trying to keep those two while dealing Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

  12. Report: Sacramento Kings may be interested in Eric Bledsoe trade

    Jun 29, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT

    New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

    Expect the Bledsoe drama to play out through the summer. Again.

  13. Report: Luol Deng surprises Miami, opts in for 2015-16 season

    Jun 29, 2015, 1:55 PM EDT

    Miami Heat Media Day Getty Images

    He has more leverage this way, can get a longer deal.

  14. Report: Lakers, Clippers, Spurs, Bulls, Knicks all interested in Caron Butler

    Jun 29, 2015, 1:24 PM EDT

    Caron Butler AP

    Doesn’t Butler strike you as the kind of veteran the Spurs bring in and he’s rejuvenated?

  15. Report: Sense around league is Kevin Love will re-sign with Cavaliers

    Jun 29, 2015, 12:44 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four Getty Images

    The question is only what length of contract Love will sign.

  16. Greg Monroe on move out of Detroit: “I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted”

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Getty Images

    Stan Van Gundy’s offense doesn’t really fit two traditional bigs.

  17. Report: Nets, Grizzlies discussed trade to send Joe Johnson to Memphis, but deal fell apart

    Jun 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets

    There is interest in Joe Johnson out there, but his $24.9 million salary limits it.

  18. Report: Wizards would love to trade Nene, but there isn’t much interest around league

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    The Wizards would like to find a stretch four this summer then play Nene more as a backup to Gortat.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (3511)
  2. D. Wade (3499)
  3. J. Embiid (3401)
  4. L. James (3300)
  5. D. Cousins (3229)
  1. K. Love (3110)
  2. K. Bryant (2676)
  3. N. Batum (2282)
  4. K. Towns (2232)
  5. K. Durant (2222)