Nick Collison met Zach Randolph at the free-throw line. Well, met is not the right word.
Met evokes gentility and courtesy. A country squire introducing himself to a lady at a ball.
This was no meeting. This was a collision. Nick Collison? Nick Collision is more like it. Collison accosted Randolph, Grizzly possession after Grizzly possession.
Which is why this was a grisly game for Memphis. The Thunder routed the Grizzlies 99-72 Wednesday to take command of a Western Conference semifinal that 11 days ago seemed mightily perilous for the Boomers.
“I wanted to be the first one downcourt,” Collison said. “Meet him at the free-throw line. Start doing my work early.”
Randolph had taken apart the stately Spurs and seemed intent on doing the same to the Thunder.
Game 1: 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting.
But Game 5: Nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. After shooting 2-of-13, 8-of-22 and 9-of-25 in Games 2 through 4.
That's 31.9 shooting for Randolph in four games paramount to the Thunder season. For comparison sake, stone hands Kendrick Perkins is shooting 46.7 percent those same four games.
Memphis can't win without Randolph scoring big. Just not enough scoring. Not enough shotmakers on the outside. The Grizzlies live in the paint, and Nick Collision and his behemoth buddies have commandeered the paint.
It's hard for the Grizzlies to win even with Randolph scoring big, if he has to shoot a ton to get a ton.
“The whole goal of a possession is to make his catches farther out on the floor,” Collison said. “Let him catch it on the block, it's a nightmare.”
The guy who beat up the Thunder in Game 1 is now getting beat up. And Wednesday night, Randolph even threw in the towel.
“As the game wore on, they got more physical,” said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. “He got fouled a couple of times and nothing was called. I think he just wanted to get back, the way they were pounding and overplaying.
“When you're a little bit tired, you tend to want to do it the easy way.”
Let's cut Randolph a little slack. The Thunder tag-teamed Randolph. Serge Ibaka. Then Collison. Then Perkins. Then Nazr Mohammed. All in one continually rotating committee.
Again, wrong word. The Thunder is not defending Randolph by committee. The Thunder is defending by ruffian waves.
“We want to make sure he feels our body,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said. “Make sure he feels multiple defenders around him. He's not an easy player to guard. He's very crafty. And he's strong.
“But our bigs do a good job. We're constantly putting fresh bodies against him. We're constantly fighting for position on the floor.”
The series isn't over, despite the Thunder's 3-2 lead. Randolph could rise up. Become again the horse that slew the Spurs and turned Loud City quiet in Game 1. Become again the player Kevin Durant called the NBA's best power forward. Become again the player that relentlessly attacks for rebounds.
But it doesn't look promising for Memphis. It looks like the Thunder's defense has taken over this series.
“We played tonight with no agenda,” Perkins said. “Guys covered for each other. Guys had each other's back. When you win like that, it's definitely fun.”
Fun, maybe. Hard work, absolutely.
The last four guys in the Thunder locker room Wednesday night were Ibaka, Mohammed, Collison and Perkins.
They dressed slowly and walked wearily.
And just think how the other guy felt.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.