NBA Playoffs 2013: Grizzlies must put Zach Randolph in position to succeed

Stephen Dunn

The Grizzlies need more out of Zach Randolph to get back into the Western Conference finals, but they have to do a better job of putting him in a position to succeed.

Zach Randolph has struggled through the first two games of the Western Conference finals. After scoring only two points in Game 1, Randolph shot just 6-for-18 in Game 2. The Memphis Grizzlies' lack of outside shooting has allowed the San Antonio Spurs to send extra defenders to Randolph, and the result has been the Spurs holding Randolph to 26 percent shooting through the first two games:

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The Grizzlies have to open up the floor for Randolph and give him space to work. Mike Prada detailed Memphis adjusting by playing Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless together to keep San Antonio's defense honest, which is one of the few ways the Grizzlies can spread the floor. If not, the Spurs will continue sending multiple defenders at Randolph.

Here, three defenders surround Randolph while he has the ball in the low post.

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Randolph passes the ball back out to Tayshaun Prince, which seemingly creates an open look. Prince passes the ball back in to Randolph, however, deciding against taking the shot. He is essentially no threat.

Another problem for Memphis here is how long it has taken Marc Gasol to get back on offense. The Grizzlies are trying to play four on five here because Gasol is barely crossing half-court.

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The Spurs are packed so tightly onto Randolph that Tim Duncan looks as if he's defending Kawhi Leonard in the post. Gasol has barely reached the three-point line. Danny Green is also sagging into the paint, not worried about leaving Tony Allen alone on the perimeter. Once again, Randolph has to deal with three defenders in the post. He puts up the shot after receiving a pass back from Prince and misses.

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In the rare instance that Randolph seals his man under the rim, the Grizzlies must get him the ball. The Spurs are doing a great job of making Randolph work in the post, so easy opportunities cannot be passed over. Here, Randolph will seal Tiago Splitter, but Darrell Arthur instead swings the ball to the corner.

It's also worth noting is that the post is clear while the Grizzlies have both Bayless (at the elbow moving off-ball) and Pondexter (planted in the corner) on the floor.

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Randolph tries to seal Splitter a second time in that same position, but Splitter is prepared for it and pushes Randolph out. The Grizzlies reset their offense.

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The Grizzlies also have to put Randolph in a position to be effective. Using Randolph to set high ball screens has been ineffective. The Spurs are able to contain the ball handler while ignoring Randolph on the perimeter.

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The Spurs easily handle the dribble penetration and force Mike Conley to pass the ball to Randolph. Even though he has space to take the shot, he's out of his comfort zone. Randolph passes the ball to Allen at the top of the arc, resetting the offense.

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The use of Splitter as a "moving" defender allows the Spurs to switch Duncan on Randolph. Duncan stepped up to Randolph once the ball was passed to him, and Splitter rotated over to Gasol. In turn, Green then rotated to Allen, and the Grizzlies offense got nothing out of that set.

Credit the Spurs' defense for having a system in place to handle Grizzlies' pick-and-roll game. Using Splitter as a rotating defender while Duncan anchors the paint is a great strategy from Gregg Popovich to work around the limitations of Duncan's mobility.

The other outcome out Randolph setting a high-screen is the ball-handler driving past the help defender. Even when Conley can get past the perimeter trap, the Spurs have defenders in the paint to protect the rim. When Memphis has both Gasol and Randolph on the floor together, Splitter can cover enough ground to guard both players while they stand on the perimeter.

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This puts Memphis in a bind with their lineup management. Both Gasol and Randolph are important pieces for the team, but when they've played together in this series, their floor spacing often shrinks.

If Memphis continues to use Randolph to set high screens, he should be used as a roll man instead of a spot up shooter, as he is ineffective standing beyond the arc.

***

The Grizzlies must avoid losing their third straight game in the Western Conference Finals. Spreading the floor for Randolph, putting him in a position where he can be effective and not missing out on quality shot opportunities is a great place for Memphis to start in Game 3.

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