Zach Randolph destroyed the Spurs in the 2011 playoffs, a defeat that triggered the ends of the Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair experiments and paved the way for Tiago Splitter’s insertion into the starting lineup.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the bruising Randolph has shot just 33 percent in the ensuing 14 meetings, finding no purchase against Tim Duncan and a defensive partner that, despite his lack of athleticism, has proven to be a willing dirty worker and one of the league’s better rim protectors since his promotion.

Rather than the springy shot-blocker many had been clamoring for to pair with Duncan, Splitter does the job by generally being in the right place at the right time and always, always keeping a hand in his man’s face.

With Splitter set to miss between three to five weeks with a sprained right shoulder, starting tonight against Randolph and the Grizzlies, the absence will provide an opportunity to examine just how valuable he is to the Spurs’ cause.

The numbers make an impressive case.

The Spurs allow 93.3 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court, the lowest individual mark on the team. Opponents shoot 42.9 percent within five feet of the rim, the 12th-lowest mark among 95 players who face at least four such attempts per game. (Duncan ranks 23rd at 45.9 percent.) Splitter also places No. 25 on post-ups (0.7 points per play) and No. 36 against pick-and-roll screeners (0.97 ppp), according to My Synergy Sports.

Beyond his non-existent post game and the lack of shot blocking, this is a valuable role player whose presence is absolutely critical depending on the matchup. (Miami — borderline worthless. Indiana — indispensable.) He’s even surprisingly important on offense; the Spurs are 13-0 this season when he reaches double-figure points, and were 16-1 last season when he scored at least 14.