Randolph’s punch might KO Grizz vs. OKC

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime discusses Zach Randolph’s suspension

Point guard Mike Conley, despite a right hamstring strain that could limit his mobility and effectiveness, was hoping to play for the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 against the Thunder Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph doesn’t have that option, sending coach Dave Joerger scrambling through his.

Randolph was suspended by the NBA late Friday afternoon for punching OKC big man Steven Adams in the jaw late in Game 6. The penalty deprives Memphis of its leading scorer (18.2 ppg) and rebounder (8.7 rpg) in the series, unclogs the defensive paint for the Grizzlies in a way the Thunder hadn’t managed to and appears to deal a severe blow to the No. 7 seed’s chances of extending its season.

Oh, the advanced stats might suggest otherwise. Randolph has a minus-5.3 plus/minus average through the first six games, and Memphis’ offensive and defensive ratings have been better when the big man has been sitting: 93.4 and 101.4 with him on the floor (-6.6) vs. 111.2 and 103.9 (+3.3) without him.

But the teams’ rotations and matchups factor into those numbers significantly in such a small sample size, and voices from both sides have lauded the Grizzlies’ size as a reason for Kevin Durant‘s and Russell Westbrook‘s difficulties attacking the rim and drifting to perimeter shots.

With the 6-foot-9, 253-pound power forward out of Memphis’ equation, his replacements – Ed Davis, Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer – might not have the same effect.

Meanwhile, Conley – Charles Barkley‘s “most underrated point guard in the league” – could be slowed despite two days of treatment on his hamstring. Especially if Joerger feels a need to pick up the pace in Randolph’s absence; Conley has been a master of running and controlling the tempo of his club’s halfcourt attack.

The late-afternoon announcement of Randolph’s suspension, on top of the way it was dealt with in real time Thursday night – Randolph was assessed a common foul, no flagrant, no review, no ejection – produced some nasty Internet comments. Some accused the NBA of favoring Oklahoma City and Durant, the league’s presumptive 2014 Most Valuable Player, for star power and alleged heightened interest for TV ratings.

The only problem with that: Randolph did pop Adams in the jaw with his right fist as the two ran upcourt together. In fact, he first elbowed the Thunder reserve with his left elbow before reaching across to punch him.

Adams didn’t seem to be hurt, judging by video replay, and the incident at 6:42 of the fourth quarter at FedEx Forum brought a whistle but not drama on the floor. The OKC rookie does seem to use his raw-boned strength intentionally to antagonize opponents.

But Randolph could have reacted differently, recoiling from whatever contact Adams caused in that moment or previously or even just rising above it. Memphis trailed at that point 88-71 and was showing no signs of denting the Thunder’s lead. The reasonable tact for the Grizzlies forward would have been to file away whatever Adams was doing to irritate him and battle another day, as in Game 7.

Now he doesn’t have that chance. And the Grizzlies might be out of theirs.

31 Comments

  1. polyblue says:

    there is a differences between behaving intentionally to antagonize other players and playing aggressively with urgency, maybe the opposition should stop tying to bully Adams, he’s no push over, it’s going to take more than a girlie punch to provoke this tongan kid and you may not like him when he’s angry.

  2. OKc2014 says:

    OKC needed divine intervention to win that last series………………….

  3. jkg says:

    hey Zac, Steven adams is not white but of Tongan heritage. just because he is less dark skinned than other people with tongan heritage (like others in his family ) doesn’t make it any less so. just like any other mixed race individual

  4. OKC2014 says:

    I am a bandwagon fan and back on OKC since nba wants them to win. I’ll ride on them until they find another poster boy.

  5. harris27312 says:

    if anyone watched that play it was more than a push adams is a big guy that hit literally moved him plus zbo elbowed him first then reached over with his opposite hand and punched him. no one can blame the refs or the coach brooks for that. It is adams job to nettle the opposing bigs zbo need to learn control.

  6. OKC says:

    Wait I thought Tony Allen had KDs number?

  7. jdub455 says:

    I’m so disappointed on Zach letting his emotions get the best of him… he’s already a vet… damn… they had a very big chance to beat the thunder… what a waste…

  8. okc2014 says:

    Zach Randolph was immature for making that impulsive decision that got him booted from a final game in the first series. How much does he like to gamble? he Grizzlies were on a roll. The only thing that stopped the Grizzlies from that roll, was that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook finally ignited. When is Kevin Durant getting his MVP award? LOL. OKC2014.

  9. paul murray says:

    Not close to a punch. Zebo punches you, you drop. Shove which deserves ejection but no suspension. Imagine if it had have been Durant or Westbrook. Now even then I would argue against taking star out of game seven unless it is a horrible foul. Say kicking someone in the face.

    • okckd35 says:

      Did u watch the replay? Closed fist to the neck? Oh that wasnt a punch cuz adams didnt fall? Maybe zbo is really a big wimp.

  10. nba is a joke says:

    Westbrook had done the same exact thing, he’d be on the floor tonight, just like Durant. The NBA is alway pushing for OKC no matter what is the situation!

    • okckd35 says:

      Cry me a river. Show me one time where a player hit someone with a closrd fist and did not get suspended. Ur just mad cuz its the same ol randolph

  11. John Smith says:

    GO THUNDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. lakerslakerslakers says:

    nba is rigged. they keep shoving durant down our throats like they did with lebron the last 5 years.

  13. OKc2014 says:

    Unfortunately this will show the metal of Grizzlies with a third win on OKC’s home court, One good game by OKC is not enough to win series

  14. celentano says:

    Z-bo gonna regret this situation to himself big time,blowing up they’rs chances for the next round.Bad luck for Memphis this year,now Okc are very Lucky this time,this can be ending for them if they have to go until game 7 further near future!
    Nasty trick from Brooks playbook has work’d again.Same stuf with harden and Metta a few years ago!

    • Your Floppiness says:

      Celentano…You should regret that statement! Or stop drinking before noon, 1 of the 2.

    • justsayin says:

      Yes – he FORCED the other teams teams to take absurdly cheap shots. The evil genius!

    • okckd35 says:

      Nasty tricks from scott brooks make other players punch his players? I think its frustration. Metta and the lakers were losing j7st like the grizzlies

  15. Blog-So-Hard-2014 says:

    It’s a wrap for the Memphis Grizzlies

  16. Big Al says:

    Since when is an open-fist shove a punch? It was also Adams who started it anyway. But what really hurts is the poor judgment that will now heavily impact a team that could potentially pull the biggest playoff upset. A Game 7 suspension is too critical especially for an important player like Zach. If an act like that is really worth a suspension, then let him serve it in a different game, at least not during a pivotal matchup.

    • Game Time says:

      “open-fist” lmao.

    • Your Floppiness says:

      Since he took it to the jaw would be my guess…Shame shame ZBo nobody to blame but yourself
      #triedofthisfoolblockingmeinthefourth

    • Zac says:

      Tell GF in private not to bring black people to game: 2.500.000 $, lifelong suspension

      Black guy punching white guy in the face live in front of millions during game: 0 $, 1 game suspension

      your call.

    • okckd35 says:

      Lmao so u are saying we should let players punch each other in the playoffs and serve their suspensions next season. Idiot….

      • squala96 says:

        Quite clearly, the ZBo suspension was a wet dream for you. You’re the idiot for not knowing what a punch is.

  17. Pepe says:

    I know ZBo should be punished for his actions, but they just took the competitiveness out of Game 7. I don’t want to go to “NBA is rigged” issue, but they must recognize that there is much more at stake than punishing a player. It’s the PLAYOFFS!!

  18. Game Time says:

    Didn’t Andrew Bynum get a seven game suspension for that elbow to Barea? I think this should be at least a 10 game suspension next season.