The Grizzlies have won four games in a row now, all of them without Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter, and James Ennis. Until last night, they’d also been without Zach Randolph, who was away from the team following the sudden loss of his mother. Last night, after a week and a half away, Randolph returned, and the Grizzlies played an emotional game, in which nothing was working offensively but they scrambled and bullied their way to victory anyway; they won a game the Z-Bo way since they had him back.
I understand why the ideas of resting on a back-to-back went out the window last night. As I said in yesterday’s recap of the Pelicans game, the Griz need to bank all of the wins they can right now before the schedule ramps up and the going gets considerably rougher. What that meant in practice last night was that the Griz were tired, not always focused, and that they couldn’t shoot (the team was 38.4% from the field and only 11.8% from 3-point range). What that meant in practice was that with the game on the line, Zach Randolph hit a layup to tie it at 91, and then after Marc Gasol and Tony Allen hit some free throws to make it a 94-91 lead, the game was won when Z-Bo grabbed a defensive rebound and forced the Sixers to foul him.
It was a normal Z-Bo play, something we’ve seen him do hundreds of times (Randolph played his 1000th career regular season game last night), but Randolph was visibly emotional as he did it, and the response from his teammates was, well, you watch it:
It's bigger than basketball. pic.twitter.com/EzbhICXlIz— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 7, 2016
The basketball that was played last night really doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things. One game against Philadelphia doesn’t really matter much in the context of the overall narrative of the Grizzlies, not this particular chapter thereof stretching all the way back to the Iavaroni days. This is a group of men who have been together for a long time, who legitimately like and are friends with each other, and who genuinely care about each other.
There are times when the Grizzlies feel ancient, like some foreign thing that used to make sense but doesn’t anymore, like The Grizzlies Epic is in cuneiform on tablets no one knows how to read anymore. Then, it feels like the right thing to do is to burn it to the ground and start over, to break the continuity with the past that sometimes feels like being tied to a millstone. But then, on a Tuesday night at a poorly-attended game against one of the weakest teams in the league without three of their best players, missing five guys to injury, something like that happens, and it clicks. This is why they won’t do that.
So much has changed in the league since Zach Randolph got here. So much has changed in Memphis since Zach Randolph got here. Eight seasons is a long time. 494 games with the Grizzlies so far. There’s comfort in routine, sure, but in his postgame comments he still looks a little shellshocked (Read the comments on that from fans, by the way. This guy matters to Memphians). I can’t imagine having to focus hard enough to play NBA basketball so soon after that kind of a loss, but there he is, and there the Grizzlies are around him, and here we are. The Grizzlies won last night. But, as is usually the case with the Grizzlies, the basketball itself was ugly, jumbled, a mess. The things worth noting were the other things.