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VOL. 131 | NO. 57 | Monday, March 21, 2016

Randolph gets first triple-double in a stunning win over Clippers

By Don Wade

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Mike Conley and his sore Achilles were in street clothes on the bench. Zach Randolph, after missing seven straight games with a sore knee, was back in uniform and playing. And playing so well that late in the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies 113-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, March 19 at FedExForum, Conley had a secret to share.

Randolph was one assist away from his first triple-double.

“Mike told me,” Randolph said. “I was kinda geeked.”

Assist number 10 came at the 1:26 mark in the fourth quarter as Tony Allen ran the lane and scored on a layup.

“I been playing with him for six years,” Allen said. “Pass it to Z-Bo, cut, get open. He can’t say I never done nothing for him.”

Said Randolph: “That’s our play.”

Randolph would be part of many plays in helping Memphis stop a four-game losing streak. He finished with a season-high 28 points, 11 rebounds and a season-best 10 assists. Allen scored 22 points.

“It all started with Zach,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “He came in on a mission. He led them. Him and Tony Allen were just the two toughest guys on the floor.”

Afterward, the Grizzlies’ locker room was a much happier place. With Conley and Marc Gasol not at their customary places in front of their lockers postgame – injured players don’t meet with the media – and the nameplate for Mario Chalmers still in place even though he was waived following his season-ending Achilles rupture, the Grizz’s den feels a little strange.

Chris Andersen, Brandan Wright, Jordan Adams and P.J. Hairston are out with injuries, too. Meantime, there is a 10-day contract corner where players share makeshift lockers and their names are printed in magic marker on masking tape. That’s home for guards Ray McCallum, Briante Weber and Xavier Munford, and center Alex Stepheson.

McCallum contributed 14 points vs. the Clippers and hit three straight shots during a key run in the fourth quarter. He was only 3 of 9 from the floor before then, but McCallum said Randolph told him: “We need you to keep shooting.”

The Grizzlies also got 12 points from Lance Stephenson and JaMychal Green had 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

“They did it collectively,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “To be rewarded with a win against a pretty darn good team, they deserve it.”

Chris Paul led the Clippers with 25 points. Rivers, however, said that the Grizzlies set the tone.

“It all started with Zach,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “He came in on a mission. He led them. Him and Tony Allen were just the two toughest guys on the floor. So, you deserve to lose when that happens.”

With the Clippers (43-25) holding the fourth seed in the Western Conference and the Grizzlies (40-30) in the five slot, Saturday's game was potentially a preview of a first-round playoffs matchup. The teams have met twice in the first round of the playoffs, with the Clippers winning 4-3 in 2012 and the Grizzlies 4-2 in 2013.

Asked about a possible rematch, Rivers said: “They should have confidence. They really should. They don’t put your jerseys up and say, `This is your name, and this is your name, and you get to win.’”

Guard Lance Stephenson, of course, came to the Grizzlies in the trade that sent Jeff Green to L.A. After Saturday’s game, Weber was dancing around in the Grizzlies’ locker room wearing Stephenson’s old No. 1 Clippers jersey.

That was good for a laugh, especially when Stephenson had a suggestion.

“Burn that jersey,” he said.

Revisiting the Matt Barnes-John Henson incident

So last Thursday in Milwaukee, the Bucks’ John Henson first snatched a ball away from Stephenson late in the game and Stephenson hit the deck in the process. Then Henson blocked a Barnes layup attempt and went all super-punk by turning to stare down Barnes.

How Henson thought this would go unchallenged is difficult to imagine. On the court, Henson got two technical fouls and was ejected. He threw his jersey into the stands while going through the tunnel to the locker room.

In due time Barnes, who ultimately was listed as ejected, jogged that same path. Just hours before the Grizzlies played the Clippers Joerger learned Barnes had been suspended for the game without pay. The NBA’s official announcement said the suspension was because Barnes tried to enter the Bucks locker room and was “verbally challenging” Henson.

The timing of the suspension made Joerger’s job that much tougher.

“I have enough variables anyway,” Joerger said, adding of league officials, “They have to be very thorough.”

As for Barnes’ play, especially during this M*A*S*H unit stretch, Joerger said: “He’s been a great leader for us. He’s been out front and kind of pulled us along, kind of our go-to player offensively.”

The schedule ahead

The Grizzlies start a three-game road trip Monday, March 21 in Phoenix, play at the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday night, then at San Antonio on Friday, March 25.

The Suns have beaten the Grizzlies two straight and the Lakers have a recent win over Golden State, but these next two games are arguably the most winnable of the 12 left on the schedule. Asked if he viewed them as prime opportunities, Joerger said: “They’re all the same. We need to get one. Then another.”

Randolph said they just have to keep working the same formula.

“Go out and compete, that’s all we can do,” he said. “Leave it all out on the court and whatever happens, happens.”

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