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How Mike Conley saved the Grizzlies and fulfilled not-so-ancient prophecy

A Grizzlies win was all but promised. But still: How did it happen?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

My mom and I have Vanderbilt basketball season tickets. Saturday night, Vanderbilt hosted Purdue at 8 p.m. Memphis tipped in Philly ninety minutes earlier. I watched the Grizzlies' sluggish first half at home, recorded the second, and drove to Memorial Gym because this was family (and because these were the Sixers).

The Commodores led 43-32 at the half, a surprising and giddy development for Vandy fans. Our team trots out three freshman starters, and the other two are sophomores. It's been a rough couple of years. To drop 43 on Purdue in the first half--yeah, there were good vibes in Memorial Gym.

43 points--that's where I left the Grizzlies. Trailing, 50-43. I chalked it up to the double-OT tango the night before, the late-night flight, the only-natural dreariness of playing the worst team in the league on a Saturday night in mid-December. Joerger would get 'em straight, I figured. By the time I was home and DVR'ing my way through the second half, the boys would already be on a #HappyFlight back to Beale Street.

Back in Memorial Gym, the second half started. And I got about seventeen variations of the same text: "CONLEY!!!!!!"


"This is the largest lead Philadelphia has had on anybody all year long." - Pete Pranica

It's 11:30 p.m., I have before me a frozen pizza that I will consume whole and without the benefit of a pizza cutter, and I have absolutely no clue how the Grizzlies are going to win this game.

There is 7:15 left. Memphis is down 95-77. There is no actual way the Grizzlies win this game.

And yet, those "CONLEY!!!!!!" texts. What do I do about those "CONLEY!!!!!!" texts?

I press play, and watch even closer, like I'm bearing witness to an astronomical miracle--a lunar eclipse, or one of my friend Chad's magic tricks. How do the Grizzlies win this game? (I, of course, don't know the Grizzlies win--I just know that something will happen that will inspire a dozen of my friends to send me texts with lots of exclamation points in them.)

The lineup is Calathes/Udrih/Lee/Leuer/Randolph, which ain't exactly the '27 Yankees. Courtney Lee hits free throws, Tony Wroten turns it over, and Z-Bo makes a layup (95-81). Michael Carter-Williams scores, but Lee answers with a three (97-84). Then, Nick Calathes leaves a delicious dish for Randolph (97-86), and I already understand. I already understand how it happens.

Calathes grabs a steal, and hits Z-Bo for an and-one. It's 97-89. In two minutes, Memphis has cut the lead from eighteen to eight. (Is Nick Calathes about to be the hero?)

With a C-Lee three, Memphis gets the deficit to six (98-92) at 4:41. A Conley trey at 2:31 gets it to five (102-97). But sweet heavens almighty, there's Robert Covington, who is a real NBA player and person, who keeps raining threes and draining frees. When Luc Richard Mbah a Moute cans a jumper to lead 107-98, even I, despite my texts from the Ghost of Conley Future, agree with Pete Pranica: "That may be the dagger right there."

But, well, Beno hits a three. Carter-Williams blows a layup. And then Conley hits a three. And then Carter-Williams shoves Conley to the floor and nabs an offensive foul. And then Conley scores on a drive to the basket.

And then my DVR cuts off.

I had not pressed "record with extended time." Any bozo with a TiVo knows to record with extended time. Why did I not record with extended time?

"Because it's the Sixers," my roommate, who'd wandered in, offers.

Dejected, I flailed around for Fox SportSouth, hoping to catch one of those late-night game reruns they sometimes do.

And I found it. The game was in the fourth quarter, at the 7:35 mark. I settled in, listened to ole Pete say it again, "This is the largest lead Philadelphia has had on anybody all year long."


Vandy's players slept snugly in their dorms after their big win. The Grizzlies' crew were wheels-down in Memphis. I had mowed through the frozen pizza, swilled a couple glasses of wine.

It was 12:30 in the morning when I finally got around to replying to those "CONLEY!!!!!!" texts.