3 votes – Zach Randolph. Just when you thought Zach might have expended all his juice in that heartbreaking triple OT loss in Game 4, which certainly looked the case watching him limp around in Game 5, he comes back with this. 30 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks, including 11 points in the fourth when the Grizzlies put their foot to the pedal. It just goes to show – you can never count out Zach Randolph. And I really can’t believe I’m saying that. This guy just doesn’t quit, and sometimes I think he’s just too dumb to know when to quit. And maybe that’s the real story about this entire Grizzlies squad. Maybe they’re just too naive, too inexperienced, too raw to really understand the magnitude of their actions in this post-season. They should not still be alive. After the losses in Game 4 and 5, the Thunder should have put them away today. Any championship-contending team would have done that, because the last thing you want to do is give Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies a chance to advance in a best-of-1 series. Very few road teams have succeeded in winning a Game 7, let alone an 8th seed trying to advance to the WCFs. But the Grizzlies don’t know that. They don’t care. And that’s why I think they can win it.
2 votes – Mike Conley. Here’s what I love about Mike Conley in these playoffs . Forget the fact he might be playing the best ball of his career. Forget the fact he’s one game away from ending Russell Westbrook’s season who was supposed to win this PG match-up hands down. What Mike Conley has done this post-season is prove that he is a true floor-general, and that he can absolutely be a point guard on a championship team. I wasn’t so sure about that coming into this post-season. But the way he has consistently performed and outshone the likes of Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook at times, proves to me that he is ready. His 11 points and 12 assists today don’t sound big, but Conley’s decision making and composure with the ball is a big reason the Grizzlies turned the tide in this game. Zach, Marc and Mayo will get more of the limelight, but Mike Conley is a true unsung hero for this Grizzlies team. I think he has really grown over the past few weeks.
1 vote – OJ Mayo. Was inserted into the starting lineup today and it paid dividends for Coach Hollins. Mayo shot a tidy 6-12 and had a couple of big buckets in the fourth when the Thunder were mounting a rally. I like Mayo in the starting lineup for this team. Far from taking away the offense from their bigs, it actually allows Randolph and Gasol to get established with fewer double-teams coming their way. I’ll be honest. I’m still waiting for Mayo to explode for just one game these playoffs – the kind of 30-35 point offensive outburst we all know he’s capable of. But he has shown a great deal of poise in his first post-season, further pointing to just how much these Grizzlies players buy into the system. He’s the type of X-factor guy that could get hot in a Game 7. It hasn’t happened yet this series, but I’m not sure that makes it any less likely.