OKLAHOMA CITY — Memphis forward Zach Randolph usually imposes his will on opponents with his strong, aggressive play.
Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have more than met the challenge.
Randolph, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward, averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds during the regular season. In the playoffs, he’s up to 18.3 points per game, but he has made just 36 percent of his shots. The Thunder say Perkins’ strength and Ibaka’s athletic ability have been a tough combination for Randolph to handle. The two have switched off on him and mostly defended him straight up, sometimes even switching during a play.
“They’re doing an amazing job,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “I don’t think they’re getting the credit they deserve. I think a lot of the attention is on Kevin (Durant) and myself, but I think they’re doing a great job of defending those bigs, which is tough to do.”
In Game 4 on Saturday night, Randolph made 5 of 14 field goals and 1 of 5 free throws. The Thunder won in overtime to tie the series at two wins apiece, and they will try to keep their success going in Game 5 Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
In Game 1, Randolph made just 7 of 21 shots. He was back to normal in Game 2, making 10 of 20 shots and scoring 25 points. He bottomed out in Games 3 and 4. In Game 3, he made just 5 of 20 shots, but the Grizzlies managed to win in overtime. Things weren’t much better in Game 4.
It’s not just Randolph’s shooting that is suffering. His rebound average is down to 8.5 per game, and he has made just 19 of 30 free throws in the series. He will not change his approach.
“Just keep on being me, keep playing,” he said.
The Grizzlies are working to figure out ways to get Randolph open, but it is difficult to come up with new things against a team that knows him so well. This is the third time in four years the teams have met in the playoffs.