Like a burly heavyweight packing an iron southpaw fist, the Grizzlies began their Western Conference semifinals fight by continuously clubbing the Oklahoma City Thunder with a roundhouse blow that is Zach Randolph.
So expect the Thunder to tweak strategy in order to limit Randolph's impact tonight in Game 2 at the Oklahoma City Arena.
But will the Thunder be ready for the Grizzlies' counterpunches if they choose to double team the post?
The Griz spent the second half of the regular season proving they are hardly a one-hit wonder. And their Plan B when the opponent crowds Randolph has been increasingly effective in the playoffs.
Just ask the San Antonio Spurs, who sent two and three players at Randolph only to get stung by the Grizzlies' other weapons in the first round. Memphis is confident it can also punish Oklahoma City for double-teaming because Randolph is a willing passer and his supporting cast is conditioned to attack.
"A lot of teams come in and expect Z-Bo to take all the shots, and that's the misconception about us," Griz swingman Sam Young said. "They figure if you stop Z-Bo you'll beat the Grizzlies. But we're not one dimensional. We've got a lot of guys who can play. We're all aggressive."
Randolph, who amassed a career playoff-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds in Sunday's Game 1 victory, says he has seen so many defensive schemes that he now relishes shooting holes through them.
"I'm always looking for cutters. Even when guys aren't looking, I'm looking," Randolph said. "I tell all my guards to keep your head up. I might not be looking at you, but I'm looking to pass the ball, so cut hard. If (the Thunder) come and double-team me I'm just going to move the ball quick and play the right way."
Consider this: The most lopsided Griz victory in the first round was a 104-86 Game 4 win in which Randolph had just 11 points and nine rebounds. Instead, the Griz relied on Tony Allen, Sam Young and Shane Battier driving in the lane and looking to score at the basket. Darrell Arthur's pick-and-pop jump shot from 18 feet was stuck on automatic.
If Oklahoma City focuses on Randolph, Grizzlies have plenty of other options
Memphis Commercial Appeal | May 3