DENVER — With nearly 2,000 regular-season games between them, 157 more in playoffs, and a combined 30 NBA seasons to their names, Paul Millsap and Zach Randolph dueled in a no-thrills, old-school brawl at Pepsi Center Saturday night.
Millsap came out on top. He pieced together his best game in a Nuggets’ uniform and finished with 18 points on 6-11 shooting to go with nine rebounds while Randolph, who’s getting up there in age at 36, finished with 11 points and nine rebounds but still was a load to deal with inside
“It’s always fun, always a challenge,” Millsap said from his locker after the game of the matchup against Randolph. “I pretty much know all his moves. I’ve been in the league 12 years, he’s a great guy, a really good basketball player. When he gets down there, he’s a tough load.”
As power forwards and centers continue to drift further and further away from the hoop within the realms of their respective offenses, bigs like Millsap and Randolph, who made most of their livings in the league from the painted area, have evolved with it. Randolph attempted 94 threes last season — more than he had shot in his previous four seasons combined and went 1-2 against Denver. His one make was a corner three.
Randolph did look like his prime self in the middle of the second quarter when he put Millsap in the blender from the right block.
But Randolph could only log 20 minutes against the Nuggets. He started but wasn’t too effective. It was Millsap’s night and his ability to get out in transition against the Kings and Randolph, and toy with Sacramento’s younger bigs like Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein was a welcomed site for the veteran, whose fit in Denver’s frontcourt has been a work in progress so far this year.
Millsap knocked down two of his three attempts from beyond the arc and went 4-8 from two-point range. He had a couple pretty finishes in transition including this and-one.
He also drew a charge against Randolph even though Millsap may have flopped just a bit.
“I took a fall one time, wasn’t expecting to get (the call), but I got it,” Millsap said. “He complained about it but that’s the relationship we’ve got. We’ve been battling for years and years so it’s always good to go up against him.”
Millsap and Randolph’s Saturday night duel was a bit of a throwback to an earlier time in the NBA but also a representation of how big men have adapted their games to fit today’s style. It was a treat to watch the two do battle.