SAN ANTONIO -- Before Game 1, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph a "pain in the butt." He meant it in the most complimentary way possible. Two games later, after a pair of blowout losses in San Antonio, the pain is all Randolph's.
After finishing with a franchise playoff-low 68 points on Tuesday, Memphis has scored just 142 points in the first two games of the series, or fewer than Golden State might score in a particularly inspired performance. The Grizzlies followed their worst playoff loss (32 points) with a 94-68 thumping that matches their third-worst postseason defeat.
"I mean, it's tough," Randolph said. "But our whole season has been like that. Guys coming and going, injuries here and there. It's hard."
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Grizzlies are the first team since the 2010 Milwaukee Bucks to fall short of 75 points in consecutive playoff games. Even worse, Memphis is 0-16 all-time in the postseason when scoring fewer than 86 points. And the way this series is going, 86 points would seem like a veritable outburst.
"They're one of the best teams in the league," forward Matt Barnes said.
No one would argue with that, nor would anyone fault the collective effort of the Grizzlies, Randolph in particular. He grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, five off the offensive glass. He dished a team-high three assists, a fact that illustrates Memphis' offensive dysfunction. But Randolph scored just 11 points in 30 minutes on 5-for-17 shooting, barely an improvement on his 3-for-13 showing in Game 1.
"Tough night for us," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said, saying he was proud of his team's effort. "I thought we battled. We were much better than we were the other night."
Two of Randolph's buckets came in the fourth quarter, after Popovich had already retired his starting lineup to the bench. In fact, San Antonio's starters have yet to log a single fourth-quarter minute during the first two games of the series. That's never a good sign.
"I wouldn't say [the losses are] embarrassing," Randolph said. "Because we know what we're dealing with, especially with our team and what we've been through. All we can do is play hard."
The irony of Randolph's ongoing struggles against the Spurs is that they really began immediately after one of the signature performances of his playoff career. In 2011, Randolph's 31 points led eighth-seeded Memphis to a series-clinching win over the top-seeded Spurs. The Grindhouse Grizzlies, as we now know them, were born.
Since then, Randolph has averaged 12 points on 35.7 percent shooting in 20 games against San Antonio, postseason included. Memphis has won just three of those games, and the next victory looks like a long ways off, especially with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley done for the season. It's those injuries that have Randolph and his teammates in such an awkward and seemingly hopeless position. At this point of his long career, Randolph is supposed to be a third option on a good team.
Now with the Grizzlies devoid of firepower around him, Randolph is tasked with carrying the load. But the Spurs present too steep of a hill to climb. Randolph went 1-for-11 with the Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge as his primary defender on Tuesday, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"They are coming at [Randolph] across the middle, they are coming across the baseline," Joerger said. "We need to make some shots that would help him out."
When you're watching the Grizzlies flail against the buzz-saw defense of San Antonio, you keep coming back to a sad reality. This is not the starting lineup Memphis is supposed to have. And the one they're using is just not getting it done. Or to put it more bluntly, they can't get it done. The Grizzlies have too little, and the Spurs have too much.
Through two games, Memphis' starters have scored a total of 68 points and shot a combined 33 percent from the field. According to NBA.com/stats, when the starting five of Randolph, Barnes, Anderson, Vince Carter and Jordan Farmar have been on the floor as a unit, they've shot 12-for-48 from the field and been outscored 51-30 over 27 minutes. Memphis' best stretches during the first two games have come with reserve-heavy lineups on the floor, and those stretches have been too brief and too insignificant to make a dent in San Antonio's dominance.
Eight quarters have been played so far in the series, and the Spurs have outscored Memphis in all of them. The Grizzlies have even lost the prolonged stretches of garbage time during the first two fourth quarters. At no point in this series has Memphis been able to make the Spurs appear tense, or even a little bit uncomfortable. Even when the Spurs' shots aren't falling, their offense still flows, and they generally get the looks they want. Meanwhile, absolutely nothing shakes open for Memphis.
A good example of Memphis' futility came during a possession on which they actually scored. It was a second-quarter basket by Lance Stephenson, who late in the shot clock of another apparently fruitless possession shed his defender, then hit a contested fallaway with his foot on the 3-point line. It was a lot of effort for a low-percentage shot, and that was one of the offensive highlights of the game for Memphis.
You could spend all night listing the depressing facts from a Memphis perspective, but in the end, what really is there to say? You can't hammer on a team that is plying their trade in a professional manner and playing as hard as you'd want a team to play. Everyone understands what is happening. After the game, you didn't sense anything like frustration or anger, just a sad sort of resignation that there's only so much a team can do.
One wrinkle that Joerger didn't try on Tuesday was going small. Memphis kept two big men on the floor the entire game, save for the closing seconds of the first half. This was despite the fact that the one successful grouping in the first game was a small unit. Barnes, for one, hopes the Grizzlies mix things up the next time out because, after all, there is nothing to lose when everyone assumes you've already lost.
"I think just have to roll the dice a little bit," Barnes said. "We've got to play small, we've got to play fast. We've got to do something. We're coming to a gunfight with some spoons."
The Grizzlies get the next couple of days off, one a practice day, then return to the comforts of the FedEx Forum on Friday for Game 3. Perhaps getting away from Texas will be enough to restore a hint of sunshine to some heavily clouded skies.
But while the Grizzlies can cling to the there-is-no-place-like-home theme for a couple of days, the fact is that it'll take more than a familiar dose of blues, barbecue and Beale Street to steal this series from the Spurs.
"At home," Barnes said, "we have got to come up with something amazing, and come out swinging, and see what happens."