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Smack / May 12, 2012 / 3:21 am

Z-Bo and the Griz force Game 7; LeBron wins another MVP

Zach Randolph

Zach Randolph (photo. Nike)

The beast is back. The monster from Marion (Ind.) that carried the Memphis Grizzlies to last year’s incredible first-round playoff upset of the top-seeded Spurs had been relatively quiet this season — thanks to a major knee injury and his team’s offensive balance — but last night Zach Randolph picked the perfect time to dominate. Z-Bo put up 18 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks to lead the Griz to a 90-88 road victory in Game 6 of their first-round series with the Clippers, forcing a Game 7 back in Memphis … With five minutes to go and the score tied, Z-Bo went up for a shot that was damn near swallowed whole by a crazed Kenyon Martin, who flexed and screamed “That’s what I’m talking ’bout!” as seven or eight courtside fans wet their pants in fear. A weaker player might have gone into a shell after that, but Randolph only grew stronger. After Mike Conley broke the tie with a corner three, Z-Bo extended the lead to five by tipping in a Tony Allen miss. Next possession, he got free under the basket for a two-hand power dunk, then he pulled down a huge offensive rebound minutes later, and finally he scored the Grizzlies’ last point on a free throw with 23 seconds left to help keep the Clippers out of reach … It still cracks us up how everybody jumped on the Z-Bo bandwagon last year, and will surely come back after Friday’s performance, like his game was some new development. The guy has been playing the EXACT same way his entire career. This is nothing new. Randolph has been a 20-and-10 type of cat since he had the pudgy babyface in Portland … The box score says Marc Gasol (23 pts, 9 rebs) had only three assists, but he was like a second point guard out there for the Grizzlies. A lot of their offense was set up by Gasol’s ability to pass out of the high post … Even when they have All-Star talent, the Clippers can’t stop being the Clippers. What other team would blow a 3-1 series lead? What other team would have its two best players get hurt right in the middle of a playoff series? Chris Paul (11 pts, 7 asts, 3 stls, bum hip) and Blake Griffin (17 pts, 5 rebs, 6 asts, bum knee) put the Clips in position to steal Game 6 and finish the series despite each of them playing hurt, but the team constantly shot itself in the foot. The worst happened with about 25 seconds left, when Allen missed two free throws while the Clippers still had a sliver of hope, but L.A.’s Randy Foye landed with his feet out of bounds after grabbing the rebound … CP3 is a wizard in crunch time, but when are people going to start looking at Griffin to produce more when it counts? For all of his size, athleticism and talent, doesn’t it look weird when Griffin is the one sending entry passes to CP3 in the low post so he can get a clutch bucket? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? … Hamed Haddadi made a cameo, beating Reggie Evans for an offensive rebound off a Memphis free throw and scoring on the putback. Evans angrily slammed the ball against the basket support, and we’re thinking the only reason he didn’t get a tech is that even the refereees understand that it must be frustrating as hell to let Hamed Haddadi score on you … Tony Allen is rocking the “I haven’t seen my barber in five weeks” look. Or maybe it’s the “I never learned how to shave” look. He played a vintage Tony Allen game: Great defensively, erratic offensively, frustrating whether he’s on your team or against your team. One time Allen was protecting the ball from swarming L.A. defenders when he backpedaled four or five steps without dribbling. Everybody from Vinny Del Negro to Clipper Darrell was expecting a travel call, but the refs instead called a late foul on one of the Clippers. The Staples Center crowd was so intense and bitter at that point, you would’ve thought it was a Lakers game … Speaking of, the Lakers will be at home today for their Game 7 against the Nuggets. Assuming Kobe Bryant hasn’t gotten sicker and will in fact play, we can’t see L.A. losing this one at home with that guy on the court … The Celtics and Sixers play Game 1 of their conference semifinal series in Boston. Andre Iguodala is playing some of the best basketball of his life right now and Lou Williams seems poised for a Ben Gordon-in-2009 style scoring explosion against the C’s, but still, we just don’t see Philly taking this series … LeBron James has won the 2011-12 NBA Most Valuable Player, according to the Associated Press. It’s not official-official yet, but even NBA.com is citing the “report” as if they don’t already know. At this point, the only suspense is finding out where Kevin Durant, Kobe, Tony Parker and the rest finished in the voting. This is LeBron’s third MVP, and he’s won three of the league’s last four MVPs. The only other three-time MVPs are Kareem, Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Bird, Magic and Moses. Like him or not, LeBron just keeps smashing any doubt that he’s one of the greatest basketball players of all-time … We’re out like Bronco …

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