NBA Playoffs: Memphis’ Big Men Wake Up In Time

The Memphis Grizzlies’ frontline has awakened just in time to save the season. After a strong showing in a must-win Game 5, the Grizzlies’ inside duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol again played big in a 90-88 survival win in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers last night. The Grizzlies have now rallied to the tie the series at three games apiece and hold homecourt for Sunday afternoon’s decisive seventh game.

Randolph scored 18 points and pulled in 16 rebounds, while Gasol knocked down 23 and grabbed nine boards. As a team, Memphis destroyed Los Angeles on the boards to the tune of 48-32, thanks in part to Blake Griffin being a complete non-factor inside. Griffin has had some good games in this series, but these disappearing acts are also way too frequent for someone who has to join Chris Paul in an inside-out combo if the Clippers are going to win this series and be a threat going forward. And not just forward in the sense of a potential matchup with San Antonio in the second round, but going forward in terms of how high this franchise can sky, now that they have both Griffin and Paul together. The last thing an NBA player wants is the reputation for freezing in big games. Regardless of what happens this year I won’t slap the label on Griffin—this is his first time in the postseason—but it will be something to watch for.

The Clippers still nearly stole the win because Memphis couldn’t take care of the ball, turning it over 20 times. The Grizzlies’ bench had six of the turnovers while only scoring 13 points. Contrast that with the Los Angeles reserves. Eric Gordon knocked down 14 points and dished six assists, while Reggie Evans got 10 rebounds. The bench nearly pushed Los Angeles through.

Both Los Angeles teams are headed for Game 7s now. The Lakers host the Nuggets tonight in a game that will feature the return of Ron Artest/Metta World Peace or whatever you want to call a player who’s a dirty cheap shot artist, but also likely to play a key role in this game. The Lakers need someone who can play some shutdown defense on the perimeter, be it against Danilo Gallinari, or Andre Miller off the bench and Artest fills the bill. He’s also got fresh legs. I picked Denver to win this series, but the one caveat was that they needed to get their road win in one of the first three trips to LA and to sweep their home floor. They won Game 5 on the road, but didn’t defend their home floor and tonight it costs them. No way does Kobe lose a seventh game at home against a team like the Nuggets. Tonight’s game will follow the formula of the Boston-Atlanta game on Thursday night—look for some real clutch play from the superstar, some frustrating play by Denver in the closing minutes and some helpful officiating at key spots and the Lakers survive.