Poor DeAndre Jordan. He knows that when Marc Gasol gets the ball at the top of the key, he's got so many things to worry about — a fast-fired, flat-footed midrange jumper, a surprisingly quick step toward the basket, the prospect of a cutter making his way around the Memphis Grizzlies center's hip and letting a hiccup-quick guard loose into the paint, and so on. In the split second between Gasol catching the pass and Gasol whipping a pass, the Los Angeles Clippers center forgot to watch one thing: His five-hole.
The nutmeg dime was one of just two assists for Gasol in the game — somewhat surprising, given that he averaged four per contest during the regular season and had nine in the first two games of the series — but despite not producing many passes that led directly to baskets, he was integral in the shape and space of the Grizzlies' half-court offense. Gasol's movement at the elbows and above the free-throw line repeatedly drew one of L.A.'s frontcourt defenders out from under the basket, allowing Randolph the room and opportunity to one-on-one against his man (usually Blake Griffin), which he did very successfully on Thursday.
And Gasol wasn't just acting as a magnet or decoy — when given the ball up top and space to fire, he did so accurately, going a combined 4 for 7 on jumpers from the areas around the free-throw line, the left elbow and the top of the key en route to 16 points. The newly minted Defensive Player of the Year also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked a shot and stymied Clipper actions all night, piloting a Grizzlies defense that forced 18 team turnovers (which produced 17 Memphis points) and held L.A. to just 38.8 percent shooting from the field in a 94-82 win that cut the Clippers' series lead to 2-1 and gives Memphis a shot at getting level on their home court at FedEx Forum on Saturday.
After the game, the Grizzlies' beastly frontcourt duo attributed the win to Memphis' renewed commitment to cleaning the glass, locking down and rediscovering their time-tested identity, according to ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz:
"We had 17 offensive rebounds," Randolph said. " We rebounded the ball well, got out in transition, got in the post, high-low from [Marc Gasol], [Gasol] hit shots. I hit shots. That's our game." [...]
"Everybody who played did their job," Gasol said [...] "Win or lose, you're always going to be who you are."
Most of the time, who the Grizzlies are doesn't wind up looking especially pretty. Sometimes, though, Gasol's combination of vision and touch can provide a touch of beauty, even in the midst of a game played in the mud.
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