It is quite safe to say that neither Zach Randolph nor Blake Griffin had particularly good games on Saturday as the Clippers took a 1-0 lead over the Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Randolph finished with 13 points on 6-10 shooting with four rebounds and five fouls. Griffin had 10 points on 3-9 shooting and five rebounds, and fouled out in 25 minutes.
It's hardly a surprise that the series began with some fantastic chippiness -- this is the Grizzlies and the Clippers, and bears nor boats forget. But that the referees keyed in their whistles upon two of the biggest stars in the series, and two players so critical to their teams' success, is a bit outside the norm. The officials won't call the bruisers this tightly all series, right?
Given the teams' history, including a 2012 seven-gamer more chippy than a Lay's factory, you can imagine the crew coming into Game 1 with the intent of quelling future problems. If that means being strict on heavy contact in the paint to the point it turns Z-Bo and Blake into part-time players, so be it. But it's not sustainable. No whistles keep Randolph from leading with a shoulder; no number of fouls changes Griffin's explosive, physical style. So are we ready for a series that keeps two of its five best players stuck on the bench or looking over their shoulders?
Based on how consistently NBA officials usually operate -- that's a joke -- it's in the best interest of Z-Bo and Griffin to come out bumping in Game 2 and force the refs to repeat themselves and calm it down. A tightly-called series probably benefits the Clippers more, though. L.A. has plenty of players other than Griffin who can score, though he is Chris Paul's best weapon. Memphis struggles to put up points even with Z-Bo. Without him, you're counting on the perimeter players like Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince to produce at high levels. They can do it, but not as consistently as CP3, Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford et al.
It would have been interesting to see Grizzlies-Clippers called like Nuggets-Warriors had been (which is more loose overall). When Randolph could stay on the court, he was effective. That in and of itself is a victory, given how Z-Bo has performed (far below his peak standard) this season. Memphis would take a Randolph shooting 60 percent every night. But the Grizzlies need him for more than 25 minutes.
That said, offense wasn't the problem for the Grizzlies in the end. The question coming into this series was whether Memphis's offense could score efficiently on an improved L.A. defense. It did. It just couldn't stop CP3 and the gang at all, despite Griffin's no-show. It doesn't bode well for Memphis heading into Game 2.