The NBA has suspended Memphis forward Zach Randolph for Game 7 of a first-round playoff series between the Grizzlies and Thunder on Saturday after determining that he "punched" Oklahoma City center Steven Adams "in the jaw" during Game 6 on Thursday.
With a little over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Oklahoma City leading 88-71, Adams and Randolph battled for rebounding position during a Memphis possession. After the shot missed, Oklahoma City cleared the rebound and play began to move down to the other end. The two players briefly jockeyed, and Randolph appeared to use both arms to shove Adams in the face, causing Adams to run off of his course towards the sideline.
However, a slow-motion replay caught Randolph's left elbow swinging into Adams' mid-section before Randolph's right hand, in a closed fist, made contact with Adams' jaw.
The on-court referees only assessed a personal foul -- and no technical fouls or flagrant fouls -- during the game. Oklahoma City went on to win 104-84 to even the series at three games apiece.
The retroactive punishment from the league office will factor heavily into Game 7 of a tight series that has seen four games go to overtime. Randolph, 32, is averaging 18.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the playoffs while shooting 40.4 percent from the field. A two-time All-Star, Randolph averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season, leading the Grizzlies in both categories.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger has relied heavily on Randolph and Marc Gasol throughout the series. The first-year coach can turn to reserve forwards James Johnson or Ed Davis to help fill Randolph's minutes, or he can take a small ball approach by giving more time to Mike Miller or Tony Allen, who have both logged regular minutes off the bench. The 20-year-old Adams was a 2013 lottery pick and he has played sparingly during the postseason. The New Zealand native has already crafted a reputation as a physical player and he has been involved in a number of incidents during his rookie season: Vince Carter was suspended one game for elbowing Adams, Nate Robinson was fined for striking Adams, Jordan Hamilton was suspended for striking Adams, and Larry Sanders was ejected for elbowing Adams.