Rosen | Grizzlies rally around Fizdale with big Game 3 win over Spurs

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) reacts during the second half of Game 3 in the team's NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill

In the absence of divine intervention, David Fizdale’s harsh criticism of the refs’ work in Game 2 served the same purpose in boosting the Grizzlies to an inspiring 105-94 win over the Spurs.

Fizdale’s rants drew a $30,000 fine from the NBA, prompting his players to chip in and pay the full amount. And “TAKE THAT FOR DATA” became somewhat of a rallying cry in Memphis.

Come fame time, there were plenty of kudos to go around, yet the Grizzlies’ resurrection was keyed by three players in particular.

Zach Randolph, getting a start after his excellent performance in Game 2, shot 9-of-16 (including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc), grabbed eight rebounds, and scored 21 points in only 29 minutes.

Except for his lone trey, two free throws, and a running dunk on a fast break, Z-Bo tallied the rest of his points in isos. Whether he was being defended by LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, or Pau Gasol, Randolph either faked, danced, and tossed up jumpers, or simply banged away in the low post.

In the pivot, Randolph’s modus operandi is to relentlessly back his defender closer and closer to the hoop, then use one last shoulder-bump to put his defender on his heels and thereby create sufficient space to launch jump-hooks, floaters, and layups.

He was an irresistible force from near and far.

Marc Gasol was 8-of-14 (including 2-of-2 triples), plus six rebounds, three assists, and 21 points.

He made dive cuts that resulted in layups, forceful drives from above the foul line, as well as spins and pull-up jumpers and flippers. In addition to his treys, Gasol also bagged a 20-foot jumper.

Very early in the third quarter, when he dropped a trey with no defender within 20 feet, Gregg Popovich pulled his entire starting five.

While the home team’s two primary bigs were dominant, Dewayne Dedmon and Pau Gasol combined for only eight points — and a mostly garbage-time spurt by Aldridge enabled him to register 16 points.

All told, Marc Gasol and Randolph outscored their opposite numbers by 42 to 24.

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol shouts during player introducions before Game 3 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

The Grizzlies’ other hero was Mike Conley — 7-of-13 (2-of-5 from 3), eight assists, and a game-high 24 points.

Conley was frequently presented with double-screens, staggered screens, and high brush screens, all designed to generate advantageous mismatches, as well as to open up driving lanes for layups and/or drive-and-kick passes.

Conley (and all of his teammates) were much more aggressive with the ball than they had been in the previous two games in San Antonio.

On one foray hoopward, Conley drove through four erstwhile defenders for his layup. Another drive for a layup was completed with no resistance from the Spurs.

Meanwhile, if Patty Mills played with energy — 4-of-8 (including 3-of-5 from downtown) for 11 points, Conley simply abused Tony Parker. In fact, both TP and Manu Ginobili were totally old and in the way — combining to miss all six of their shots and going scoreless.

Faced with the Grizzlies’ amped-up energy, the Spurs failed to respond.

Parker frequently overhandled, their offense was stagnant, the ball was rarely reversed to the weak side, and they depended too much on one-on-one forays.

Credit Memphis’ defense for this, including occasionally double-teaming the ballhandler in the backcourt — a tactic that produced several costly turnovers.

Overall, the Grizzlies had 21 assists to the Spurs’ 16, and were guilty of only five TOs to SA’s 12.

Another factor that boosted the Grizzlies’ offense was their quick and lively ball and player movement that discombobulated the Spurs’ usually alert interior defense.

An unofficial count credited the Spurs with only 12 effective in-the-paint rotations against 23 late or absent helps.


The Spurs simply must find a way to control Randolph. Two-time him on the near-perimeter and make him pass under pressure — he had zero assists in Game 3. Or else deny him the ball when he’s away from the hoop. And front him in the low post, with weak-side help available.

Push Marc Gasol right when he looks to drive from the high post, a strategy that takes away his left-to-right crossovers.

Flash-double Conley when he comes off screens or receives hand-offs.

Give Mills more of Parker’s usual playing time. Ditto for Jonathon Simmons and the leg-weary Ginobili.

Hopefully, Pop’s embarrassing of his starters will compel them to play with more verve and more cohesion.

Or, perhaps, the unifying, morale-boosting outburst by Fizdale will continue to inspire his players to overachieve.

Game 4 should be a doozy!  

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