He scored a franchise playoff-best 31 points in ousting the San Antonio Spurs a week ago, and went for 34 as the Grizzlies opened their Western Conference semifinal series with a win in Oklahoma City. His shooting touch faltered just over 48 hours later, though, when Randolph hit 2 of 13 from the floor and finished with 15 points against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City won that game 111-102 to even the series at 1-1.
“I think we got a rhythm. We came out today, ran through our plays, ran through their plays pretty good. Guys look like they have their legs up under them,” Randolph said. “Hopefully, we’ll be in rhythm. We’ll be able to make some shots.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins isn’t worried about any carry over for Randolph or Gasol.
“They didn’t struggle the last game really. They shot the ball a little bit poorly,” Hollins said. “But they played their game. I don’t worry about that stuff.
“We need to increase our aggressiveness and our pace to attacking.”
The Thunder had plenty to do with holding the NBA’s best scoring team in the paint in the regular season to just 34 points, well below the 52 the Grizzlies scored inside in winning the series opener. They even triple-teamed Randolph early, and the constant attention wore him down.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said he thought his Thunder did a good job defensively to help force Randolph into missing shots he normally makes. Oklahoma City worked on pushing him 2 or 3 feet away from the areas he prefers to catch the ball, and when he tried to dribble, the Thunder simply swarmed him.
“We just executed it much better in the second game,” Brooks said. “Zach is a terrific player. I’m sure he’s going to come back with a different mindset. We just have to stay consistent in what we do.”
That means the game plan isn’t changing for the Thunder, who practiced Friday in Oklahoma City before flying to Memphis.
“We’re still going to continue to do what we do,” forward Nick Collision said. “Pack the paint regardless if they’re spreading them out. We’ve just got to continue to do what we do.”
Hollins isn’t concerned about who is on the court for the Thunder. He has spent the time since Tuesday night’s loss giving his Grizzlies a day off Wednesday with a focus Thursday and Friday on what they need to fix. The Grizzlies left 3-point shooters too wide open, and the Thunder hit 8 of 14. Memphis turned the Thunder over 16 times but also matched that number.
“Getting turnovers and turning it back over to them doesn’t matter,” Hollins said. “We turn them over, we’ve got to get good shots, whether it’s a fast break or we execute in our half court.”
“Coach has got a huge playbook, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to exercise that,” Allen said. “We’re going to draw up a lot of sets today to get those guys in the post a little easier to where they can’t come down and ball up that paint.”
As loud as Oklahoma City has been, the volume may be even higher in the FedExForum. The Grizzlies sold out only four time in the regular season despite winning 30 games in Memphis, yet their first five postseason games have sold out. They have won their first three on home court.
Fans lined up Friday for free headbands to support this team, and Grizzlies veteran Shane Battier(notes) said he and his teammates are being thanked by people all around town. He was here when the Grizzlies lost their first 12 playoff games between 2004 and 2006. It may sound corny, but Battier said these fans are vested differently than any other NBA arena he’s seen.
“Part disbelief, part shock, part proud parent. It’s a strange, great mix of a lot of different emotions, which makes it really electric,” Battier said.
That’s helps makes Saturday so crucial.
“It would be a great win for us,” Brooks said. “We have to go in there and compete. It’s not going to be easy. We know what their team is about. Their crowd is going to be very good. We have to get one win.”
AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City, Okla., contributed to this report.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker