Midway through overtime, I closed my eyes in section 113 row G seat 4. I heard the crowd’s burst of joy; I heard the PA announcer proclaim Zach Randolph had made a two-point shot as the crowd began slowly chanting “Z-Bo, Z-bo, Z-Bo.” As I shut my eyes, I wasn’t in section 113 anymore. I was in section 209 row F seat 5 on April 29, 2011. The Grizzlies were playing the Spurs not the Suns. It was the playoffs not the regular season, and I was in crappy seats crammed in between two overweight Grizzlies fans. Everything was completely different except a few things: the crowd’s roar, the PA announcers rich voice, Z-Bo chants and Zach Randolph being Z-Bo. I was able to briefly relive the greatest moment of my sports fandom: the night the Grizzlies won their first playoff series on the shoulders of Zach Randolph.
Randolph had it all working Tuesday night: the jab-step jumper, the step-jumper, the running hook, the Z-bound and he even threw in some bonus blocked shots and a spin of the block one-handed dunk. He ended the night with 38 pts on 15-22 shooting 8-8 fts and 22 rebounds (7 offensive). He took over the game in overtime and everyone in the building knew it. People always talk about players “being in the zone”; well, I will always associate “being in the zone” with eyebrow scowl of Zach Randolph as he dominates the end of a close game from the post.
Randolph covered up what was a pretty poor game from the Grizzlies. They played terrible in the first half, with 12 turnovers, and the suns hit every shot they looked at. In the second half, the Grizzlies would cut the lead to two or four only to watch the suns make another run and push the lead back to 10. Memphis, finally, took the lead with just over a minute left in the game, on a Randolph runner, only to have the suns recapture the lead the next possession on a Luis Scola hookshot. Then, Rudy Gay tied the game with 12-foot pull up with around 20 seconds left. Jermaine O’Neal, who actually played a great game, threw up a desperation 20-footer as regulation ended. In overtime, Mike Conley hit a three on the opening possession as the shot-clock winded down. From then on out, it was the Z-Bo show. They just threw him the ball on the block and got the heck out of the way. He hit three jumpers in a row to push the Grizzlies’ lead to eight. Z-Bo was back, and no one was happier than all his teammates, who were all smiling as Z-Bo chants rained from the stands.
Randolph’s scoring barrage proved too much for the Suns as the Grizzlies prevailed 108-98 in overtime.
It wasn’t a playoff series clincher, but it sure felt good to watch Z-Bo do his thing.