Zach Randolph became selfish down the stretch, and the Memphis Grizzlies are no longer the teddy bears of the NBA playoffs.
Randolph had 17 of his 31 points in the final quarter with 11 rebounds, and the Grizzlies held off the visiting San Antonio Spurs 99—91 on Friday night to close out their first—round Western Conference series, 4—2.
“I wanted to touch the ball every time down court,” he said. “I did take an initiative to try to take over the game.” The Grizzlies had been 0—12 in three previous post—season appearance. However, they etched their names into the record books by becoming just the second eighth seed to knock off a top seed in a seven—game series en route to winning the first playoff series in franchise history.
“Not a lot of people knew a lot about us coming in, but we have certainly made some noise, turned some heads and have gotten some attention that probably wouldn’t have given us if we had lost this series,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
“I’m pleased with where we are but I’m not satisfied from the perspective that this is a great opportunity to do something really special.” Memphis moves into the conference semifinals against fourth—seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, beginning on Sunday. The Grizzlies took three—of—four regular season meetings against the Northwest Division Champions.
Spaniard Marc Gasol had 12 points with 13 rebounds, while Tony Allen and Venezuelan rookie Greivis Vasquez had 11 off the bench for the Grizzlies, who outplayed their opponents throughout the physically—demanding series.
Frenchman Tony Parker scored 23 points, Argentine ace Manu Ginobili had 16, and Tim Duncan finished with 12 and 10 boards for the Spurs, who posted a league—best 61—21 regular—season record, but failed to make it out of the first round.
“This is very frustrating,” Parker said. “We played well all season long, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play well in the playoffs. Overall, Memphis played better than us, give them credit.” After letting close out game five slip away, the Grizzlies came out on fire, quickly racing to a 14—point advantage in front of their wildly—cheering 18,119 white towel—waiving fans at sold out FedEx Forum.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder,” Randolph said. “We thought we could win this game.” The Spurs chipped away and took a brief 80—79 lead on a jumper by Antonio McDyess with 4:39 left. Randolph, a self—described blue collar worker, went to work.
“We were up by one with five minutes left to go but we didn’t make the plays that we needed to win the game and we couldn’t stop Zach,” Parker said.
“He made all the big shots in the fourth quarter. That’s what you need if you want to win the series; your best player making big shots, and he definitely delivered a big victory for them.” “From a pick—me—up perspective, we just got on his back, and we rode him like he was an English warhorse,” Hollins said of Randolph.
“He was really carrying us in the fourth quarter.” The burly forward scored 10 of the Grizzlies’ next 14 points on an assortment of feathery left—handed jumpers and power drives to open up a 91—82 lead with 1:01 remaining.
After the Spurs pulled within 95—89, Randolph sank one—of—two free throws with 9.8 ticks to go. He took a seat on the bench to watch history being made and the celebration get underway.
“It’s great for the city of Memphis that we can win a playoff series and make history,” Randolph said. “It’s a great accomplishment.
“We should be happy for the night, but we have a game on Sunday, so we got to get ready.”