Pop quiz, hotshot: If I asked you which member of the Los Angeles Clippers would be most likely to commit a flagrant foul, and which member of the Memphis Grizzlies would be most likely to sincerely appreciate it, which two names would you come up? Wait — crud, their names are in the headline. Dangit. I would be a terrible high school teacher.
Anyway, at the halfway mark of the fourth quarter of Thursday's Game 3, with the Grizzlies leading the Clippers 78-71, Randolph sealed off Barnes on the right block and received an interior pass from center Marc Gasol and rose up to attempt a layup. Barnes' only chance to prevent an easy point-blank bucket was to foul Z-Bo hard, which he did, coming down with both hands on the burly power forward's shoulders, prompting a brief up-close-and-personal session between the two playoff veterans:
The refs immediately descended on the scrum to settle things down, which is totally understandable, because a collision between self-described "jackin' dude" Randolph and habitual line-stepper Barnes seems like the kind of thing you want to put a lid on as quickly as possible.
As it turned out, though, there would be no violence on the dance floor — instead, it was just two dudes who know the difference between a hard foul and a cheap shot dapping one another up (a bit awkwardly, in the case of Randolph's "friendly" headbutt), celebrating one another's respective crazy and sharing a quick hug. They were both smiling the whole time and they even shook hands after the refs got all worried. It was heartwarming, really.
As "real recognize real" moments go, this one wasn't quite as great as Amar'e Stoudemire's post-Mozgov eyebrow raise at Blake Griffin, but it was still pretty great. Especially considering it didn't escalate into anything more serious, remaining a fun and ridiculous moment that didn't meaningfully alter the outcome of a game in which Randolph finally broke loose.
After two games hampered by foul trouble, the active defense of the Clippers frontcourt and the chore of checking Blake Griffin on the defensive end, Randolph resembled the low-block bull he was throughout the Grizzlies' attention-grabbing 2011 playoff run. He established himself in the paint early, overpowering L.A.'s defenders en route to 13 points in 10 first-quarter minutes, including a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line. More importantly, he continued attacking and pressing the action rather than settling for the kind of midrange step-back looks that he once canned with regularity but on which his touch has been a bit dodgier of late. The result? Six fouls drawn (including, for the third straight game, a double-foul assessed to Randolph and Griffin after a scrum), 10 free-throw attempts (he hit nine), six offensive rebounds (11 overall) and 25 of his game-high 27 points coming either in the paint or at the charity stripe.
When Randolph's that kind of offensive generator, the Grizzlies are tough to beat. When he's that good and a Memphis D orchestrated by Gasol and executed up top by Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince holds its opponents to 38.8 percent shooting (including a combined 10 for 29 from guards Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford), the task's even tougher, as the Clippers can attest after a 94-82 final that got the Grizz on the board and gives Lionel Hollins' team a chance to even the best-of-seven series up at two games apiece in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon.
Hollins would sure love it if this version of Z-Bo showed up when that contest tips off. If he does, some more happy, celebratory headbutts and hugs might be in the offing; I, for one, can't wait.
Original video via CBSSports.com's Matt Moore.