It was almost like Zach Randolph had not missed two and a half months of action. His 25 points and nine rebounds against the Raptors are the numbers we are all accustomed to seeing from the star forward.
Yet, he has missed two and a half months of action, equating to 38 games, and for him to play as well as he did was surprising to say the least.
The Grizzlies still lost a heartbreaker to the Raptors 114-110 in overtime, but Z-Bo’s performance was a bright spot for the Grizzlies in the game.
“I took a huge step confidence wise. I ain’t played in almost three months,” Randolph said about his performance.
All of the elements of his game were in effect. He was extremely physical throughout the game, grabbing six offensive rebounds, and numerous points around the rim, including a dunk on a fast break after a nice assist from OJ Mayo.
The crowd and his teammates fed off of his energy and effort. And when he scored his first bucket of the game in the first quarter, the crowd erupted.
Mike Conley was among those who were glad to have Z-Bo back. “We can be more inside outside, especially with Marc Gasol and Zach being back. Hopefully we can continue to improve and dominate the paint,” he said. They did just that against the Raptors scoring 48 points in the paint and snagging 15 offensive rebounds in Z-Bo’s return.
While Randolph was the offensive presence the Grizzlies needed, he did struggle form the free throw line shooting just 50 percent with 14 attempts from the charity strip. But on this particular night everybody in a Grizzlies uniform struggled to make free throws. The team shot just 60 percent from the free throw line, missing 20 free throws all together.
“I feel like we gave this game away,” Z-Bo said in reference to the team’s free throw woes.
After the game, Randolph said he is experiencing no pain in his knee, but did mention that it got a little stiff. “I felt pretty good,” Randolph said, “Timing was a little off. I was a little rusty at both ends. I got to get better and keep improving.”
If the Grizzlies are going to make a strong push into the playoffs Z-Bo will need to improve quickly as just one game separates seeds five through eight in the Western Conference. Memphis is now on a two game losing streak, but they remain a half game up on the Mavs for the fifth seed in the West.
The Grizzlies have a day off before they play the Wizards on Sunday, so Randolph will get a day to rest his knee.
All in all it was a solid performance from Randolph. But there are no moral victories for this team. Just ask Coach Hollins who said, “I am happy to have Zach back. You can give him kudos for scoring, but that is what he does. We need the defense and everything else that helps us win the game.”
And at the end of the day that is what it is about. Wins and losses.
C.J. Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum.
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