LOS ANGELES – Where’s Vince McMahon when you need him?
When Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph get together it’s always a no-holds-barred (depending on what the refs actually allow) steel-cage match and tonight’s Game 2 at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT) should be no different.
In Saturday’s 112-91 victory for Blake’s Los Angeles Clippers, the opposing big fellas — who combine for at least 511 pounds — grabbed, pushed, bumped, used elbows, shoulders and whatever else to gain an ounce of traction against the other.
In the end, they effectively canceled each other out, combining for more fouls (11) than field goals (nine), free throw attempts (seven) and rebounds (nine). Both logged well below their season average for minutes played because of the constant whistles.
At one point they were handed the usually rare double-foul, only it’s not so rare for these two. It happened twice in four games during the regular season.
“It’s going to be a physical series that way,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It was last year, it was all of regular-season games and obviously the playoffs, with the energy in the building and just kind of what’s at stake, it’s going to be like that.”
No one needs to remind Griffin what he’s in for again tonight when he steps into the ring with Randolph.
“For anybody else, I feel like it’s not that much of a fight, because most of the time things get called no matter what,” Griffin said. “But that’s his game. Over time, people get used to that. So it’s not going to really work in my favor. I just have to make sure it’s even.”
It was in Game 1. Griffin fouled out with 10 points, just nine shot attempts, and five rebounds in under 26 minutes. Randolph had five fouls, picking up two in the first quarter that sent him to bench early. He had 13 points and four rebounds in less than 25 minutes.
It’s been the norm whenever Blake and Z-Bo lock up. In four regular-season games, Randolph has shot 37.3 percent, his second-lowest field-goal percentage against a team he played more than twice. Griffin averaged 13.8 points, more than four points below his season average, and seven rebounds, also below his season average.
“People might look at the box score and say, ‘Oh, he’s not contributing,’” said Griffin, who did acknowledge that he’d like to be more aggressive on the offensive end. “But watching the film (of Game 1), our coaches and our team felt like we did the job we were supposed to do. If you look at the final stats, it reflects that because we won the rebounding battle.”
In a huge way: 47-23 (and 14-4 on the offensive glass for a 25-5 advantage in second-chance points), a margin that surely won’t be repeated in Game 2.
But the larger point to tonight’s game and the series is that Memphis, dependent on running its offense through its two “bigs” — Randolph and Marc Gasol — can’t count on Randolph to be a dominant force matched against Blake at both ends of the floor. If those two continue to cancel each other out, the deeper Clippers are better equipped to find other ways to win as they did with a tremendous bench effort to grab the 1-0 series lead.
It was their fourth win in five games against the Grizzlies this season.
Prior to Game 1, Jamal Crawford described the physical play to come as going to be a “bloodbath.” Prior to Game 2 he said, “I think it will get progressively more physical as the series goes on. I think the best is yet to come.”
Get the steel cage ready.