Somewhat surprisingly, Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale inserted Zach Randolph into the starting lineup for Game 3. The veteran forward started just five games during the regular season, and his last start came in a 91-90 defeat to the Sacramento Kings on March 27.
Randolph proved to be one of Memphis' best players Thursday night, finishing with 21 points, eight boards and one block.
The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins reminisced about Randolph's terrorizing the Spurs in the 2011 playoffs—when the eighth-seeded Grizzlies upset San Antonio in the first round:
ESPN Radio's Mike Golic Jr. attempted to explain Randolph's unique style:
Randolph helped give Memphis a decided advantage inside. The Grizzlies outscored the Spurs 44-34 in the paint. Mike Ceide of WREG TV in Memphis thought Pau Gasol had little hope of stopping Randolph close to the basket:
The Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe tweeted the Spurs were similarly flummoxed when it came to stopping Mike Conley:
On one possession in the fourth quarter in particular, Conley made Patty Mills look silly:
Conley posted 24 points and eight assists in the win, far outpacing his opposite number. Tony Parker played 19 minutes and went 0-of-4 from the field.
Parker's struggles encapsulated San Antonio's inability to provide offensive support for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. Aldridge had a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), and Leonard led the team with 18 points.
But in addition to Parker's lackluster performance, Gasol was 2-of-9 for six points, and Manu Ginobili missed both of his field-goal attempts.
The Grizzlies, on the other hand, got nice nights almost across the board, and even most of the players who didn't pad the stat sheet had at least one highlight-reel moment. Vince Carter only scored four points, but he brought the home fans to their feet in the third quarter, as NBA on TNT showed:
ESPN's Jemele Hill figured a 40-year-old Carter could still outjump a lot of players in the NBA:
CBSSports.com's Matt Moore praised Fizdale for maximizing the talent at his disposal:
Thursday night's game was as much of a must-win situation the Grizzlies could've faced, short of an elimination game. Going down 3-0 in the series would've been an almost insurmountable deficit. Instead, Memphis has an opportunity to tie things up at home Saturday night.
Still, the Grizzlies need to win three of the next four games in order to advance to the conference semifinals. And at least one of those victories will need to come in San Antonio. The positivity and momentum the Grizzlies generated from their Game 3 win will dissipate quickly should the Spurs take a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will likely adjust his game plan to address a potentially increased role for Randolph. San Antonio remains in the driver's seat by virtue of owning a series lead and home-court advantage.
The Grizzlies undoubtedly made things interesting, though, by dominating the Spurs on Thursday.