Coming into last night, most of the Grizzlies community had accepted their fate, which was the seventh seed in the playoffs. Most likely, the Grizzlies would be facing the San Antonio Spurs in the postseason. Until that was decided, Memphis needed to finish out their season strong. After three disheartening losses, Memphis needed to grab a win against the New York Knicks, who were without Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony.
Mike Conley returned for Memphis last night, injured eye and all. Fortunately, Conley looked great coming out the gate with two quick three pointers. To start off the first quarter, Memphis grabbed a quick 10-5 lead. Mike Conley had an impressive first quarter with 14 points, including four threes. The Grizzlies had 5 threes to the Knicks’ 1.
During the second quarter, New York made minor runs, but the Grizzlies maintained a steady lead, which eventually jumped out to double-digits. The Knicks made a run to cut it to single digits again, and the Grizzlies struggled down the stretch. Their lead was diminished, but Memphis remained up, 53-47. This was largely thanks to a huge first half performance from “Captain Clutch”, who had 21 points and 4 assists going into the third. On the other hand, Marc Gasol had a very weak first half with only 5 points (he was 1-5 from the field). For the Knicks, Maurice Ndour led New York with 11 points and 4 rebounds.
In the third quarter, Mike Conley continued to roll, but Memphis began to fall apart midway through the period. Their lead was cut down to one with less than 6 minutes remaining, and a few New York three pointers and lackadaisical play by Memphis on both ends of the floor resulted in the Knicks grabbing the lead. At the end of the third, New York led the Grizzlies, 72-70. The Knicks’ scoring was pretty spread out, while Mike Conley was carrying most of the load for Memphis points-wise.
In the fourth quarter, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol buckets gave Memphis back the lead. After a quieter third quarter, Conley got going again in the final period. The Grizzlies regained a decent lead once again, and three Vince Carter three pointers (he had 12 points on the night) gave the Grizzlies an 11 point lead with less than 5 minutes remaining. The Knicks weren’t able to muster up a comeback in this one, and the Grizzlies’ third quarter deflation fortunately didn’t carry into the fourth quarter.
So the Grizzlies beat the Knicks at home, 101-88 and broke their losing streak. On the night, Wayne Selden had 13 points (career high), and Marc Gasol had 16 points and 10 rebounds. For the Knicks, former Grizz Courtney Lee had 16 points, and Maurice Ndour had 15 points and 7 rebounds.
"I'm just coming out trying to play with energy on both ends of the floor," -Wayne Selden.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
"I'm just trying to use my body, get in the lane...However I get there I get there," -Wayne Selden— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
Mike Conley: The Warrior We Need And Don’t Deserve
Mike Conley returned from injury last night, but he didn’t look so great coming into the game. After getting a huge cut above his eye from a collision in the Spurs game on Tuesday night, his eye and the area above it still appeared pretty swollen. We’ve seen Mike Conley play through injuries before, but would he be able to play at the level he was playing before the injury?
Well, Mike had no trouble doing that. Right out the gate, he knocked down 3 three pointers before the second quarter even started. On the season, he’s shooting 40% from three, which is a career high. His confidence was as high as it had ever been, and the eye injury didn’t appear to be impeding him in the slightest. He had a quiet third quarter, but he again exploded in the fourth, and he had 31 points total on the night and 6 assists. His plus-minus rating was the highest on the team, +14.
Especially post All-Star break, Conley has carried this Grizzlies team and has progressively stepped up his game. At this point, he’s averaging 20.5 PPG and 6.4 assists. It’ll be crucial for Memphis for Conley to continue this sort of play in the postseason for them to stand a chance against the San Antonio Spurs.
Conley has time and time again played through injury and shown why he’s one of toughest guys in the league. He’s played through multiple injuries, including a broken face in the playoffs. Last night was just another example why Mike Conley has a high tolerance for pain. It’s almost robotic. He talked about after the game to the media how the eye injury didn’t really affect him, and you could tell by the box score that that was definitely the case. Mike Conley has played through pain so many times that last night wasn’t surprising. However, we shouldn’t take a player like Conley for granted. He’s been a special player and person to this organization, and it’s been incredible to watch him grow this season. Now, he’ll face a huge task in the postseason, but Conley seems as ready as ever to take on the challenge.
"He's been playing phenomenal... He's definitely an All-NBA caliber guy," -Tony Allen on Mike Conley.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
So We Meet Again: Grizzlies Lock Up 7th Seed And Will Face The Spurs
After the win last night, the Grizzlies have officially clinched the seventh seed and will face a familiar foe in the San Antonio Spurs.
But something is different about this time. It’s got a different ring to it.
For one, unlike in past years, the Spurs don’t have Tim Duncan to shut down Zach Randolph. Against the Spurs, he’s averaged 14.8 PPG. Zach Randolph versus LaMarcus Aldridge is always entertaining, and oftentimes Zach gets the better of him. And unlike in past years, the Grizzlies are a little more athletic this season, and Randolph isn’t even starting. JaMychal Green provides some athleticism and depth at that position, and Randolph can come off the bench and produce consistently.
Also, Mike Conley is playing out of his mind. No one can stop him, and one wonders if he could carry this Grizzlies team through a playoff series. We’ve all seen players do stuff like that before, why not Conley? Now, it would definitely help for Marc Gasol to play a little better. Since the All-Star break, his numbers have been somewhat inconsistent. However, Marc has a little extra motivation this time, as he’ll be facing his brother Pau, which adds another interesting narrative.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies have a couple more games to get into a rhythm with Marc and Mike back. Undoubtedly, this Spurs team is quite different now than the team that has had Memphis’ number in past playoffs. Actually, the Grizzlies match up better with them than they have the past few seasons, so this isn’t as black and white as it may at first appear. However, the Grizzlies will have to get past All-Star caliber player in Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 25.7 PPG.
Therefore, I’m not saying it’ll be easy. But, at the very least, it should be an entertaining series, and Memphis stands a chance, which is all they need.
"We know each other very well, it'll be a tough series," -Zach Randolph on San Antonio matchup— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
"We're going to continue to work these next few games... We're expecting a tough series regardless," -Mike Conley on Spurs matchup.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
Now, the Grizzlies will face the Detroit Pistons Sunday in the FedExForum as they look to finish the last stretch of the season strong.
"I was really happy with the way Marc and Mike responded in the huddle," -Coach Fizdale on the end of the 3rd quarter + 4th quarter response— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
"It really comes down to who is the most connected group," -Coach Fizdale.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017
"He just finds a way to help us. I knew he could help us this year, I just didn't realize how much he was going to help me," - Fizdale on VC— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 8, 2017