|For one half, Memphis revisits its successful inside-out game, and Zach Randolph benefits. (AP)|
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Grizzlies spent the majority of the first four games of their best-of-7 series with the Clippers ignoring the inside-out approach that earned them the fourth seed in the Western Conference and reputation as a dangerous team. It made no sense. But that's what they did.
And so they lost.
Losing Games 1, 3 and 4 placed the odds firmly against themselves in these NBA Playoffs. But the home crowd still filed into FedExForum on Wednesday night for Game 5 and waved those "Believe Memphis" towels just like they did for Games 1 and 2. The only difference this time was that the fans came with instructions, and they weren't shy about yelling them in the general direction of the court.
"Pass it to Z-Bo!" screamed the little girl in the front row. "Pass it to Z-Bo!"
So what if the little girl doing the screaming from the front row was Mackenly Randolph -- Z-Bo's 6-year-old daughter? (How awesome is it that she calls her daddy Z-Bo?) She might be biased, sure. But the family ties didn't make her opinion any less right because her demands echoed precisely what most Memphis fans had been yelling on talk radio and typing on Twitter. Folks had seen enough Rudy Gay isolation plays resulting in misses to last a lifetime. They entered Game 5 with a desire to watch the Grizz pass it to Zach Randolph (or Marc Gasol) and get back to operating the way this roster was designed to operate.
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Turns out, the Grizzlies wanted that, too.
It was obvious early and the reason they extended this series.
"We just wanted to play through the post," Randolph said after a 92-80 victory against the Clippers in which he finished with a series-high 19 points and 10 rebounds. "That's what we need to do, play inside-out."
Randolph and Gasol combined to make 12 of 14 shots and score 27 points in the first quarter while Memphis jumped to a 36-22 lead that proved too much (at least on this night) for the Clippers to overcome. Yes, the Clips cut a 24-point deficit (75-51) in the third quarter to six (85-79) in the fourth to bring back memories of Memphis' historical Game 1 collapse. But with L.A.'s Chris Paul (strained right hip flexor) and Blake Griffin (sprained left knee) both banged up, the Grizzlies were able to hang on even though they got away from their inside-out approach in the second half.
Randolph and Gasol were 14 for 18 from the field in the first 24 minutes.
They were 0 for 7 from the field in the final 24 minutes.
Naturally, Grizz coach Lionel Hollins was asked why he abandoned the inside-out approach down the stretch. His response was just as inexplicable as his decision to keep his best perimeter defender (Tony Allen) on the bench for almost all of the fourth quarter while the Clippers made a run.
"If [Randolph and Gasol] took seven shots and made none [in the second half], that should tell you why we went away from it," said Hollins, who is too smart to genuinely believe something so dumb. I mean, the man who outcoached San Antonio's Gregg Popovich last postseason can't seriously think it's wise to go away from Randolph and Gasol -- the only two Grizzlies who have ever been All-Stars as Grizzlies -- because they missed their first seven shots of the second half when he spent Monday designing countless plays for Gay, who missed 17 of the 25 shots he attempted. So I'm just gonna chalk that answer up to Hollins choosing to be difficult. Otherwise, I'd have to rip a coach after a huge win, and I'd rather not do that because I'd rather look ahead.
To Game 6 at Staples Center.
How healthy Paul and Griffin will be remains unclear and could be what ultimately decides this series. Either way, the sellout crowd of 18,119 at FedExForum seemed confident as the final seconds ticked away late Wednesday when they chanted "See you Sunday" over and over again in reference to a possible Game 7 that would be played back here in Memphis at 1 p.m. ET on Mother's Day.
But Game 7 can't happen unless the Grizzlies win Game 6. And the Grizzlies can't win Game 6 unless they remember that feeding Randolph and Gasol allowed them to outscore the Clippers 57-42 in the first half, and that not feeding Randolph and Gasol allowed the Clippers to outscore them 38-35 in the second half.
It really is that simple.
When the Grizz play inside-out, they're better than the Clippers.
When they don't, they're not.
It doesn't take a genius to see this.
All it takes is a 6-year-old little girl with a good seat and a better voice.