Sometimes, it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.
After a frustrating half of anemic energy and poor execution, the Memphis Grizzlies rallied through the brilliant play of Mike Conley to defeat the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers 112-106 in a thrilling overtime game at the Grindhouse. After a series of disappointing performances, Conley had his best night of the season, finishing with 32 points on 12-24 shooting along with 6 assists.
Over the last several years, it’s almost become a running joke that the Memphis Grizzlies often fall in “trap games” against inferior competition. And with the Sixers only having 9 active players in the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade, it looked like tonight was going to be yet another example.
Throughout most of the first half, the Grizzlies were lifeless on the defensive end as they allowed the Sixers to cruise to a 63-50 halftime advantage. In particular, the Sixers took advantage of uncharacteristically porous paint defense from the Grizzlies as they shot 55%. J.J. Redick was unstoppable as he had 16 points and made shots from virtually every part of the floor.
However, increased energy and defensive tenacity allowed the Grizzlies to take the lead by the halfway point of the third quarter. And while multiple players including Kyle Anderson, who stifled J.J. Redick in the 2nd half and finished with a career-high 13 rebounds, and Garret Temple stepped up on the defensive end, there was one player that carried Memphis offensively when they needed it the most.
Conley’s performance tonight was more significant than how many points he scored or how many shots he made. It exemplified a fact about him than has been true over the last several seasons: When he plays at his absolute peak, he takes a back seat to no one in the NBA.
To be sure, he is very capable of carrying a team on any given night. The question at this point in his career is whether he can do it consistently.
As for the other half of Memphis’ best tandem in franchise history, Marc Gasol had a poor night from the field as he shot 7-21. However, he made three impactful three-pointers and continued his run of “Defensive Player of the Year” level defense as he stifled Joel Embiid into a 4-15 shooting night.
Garret Temple also continued his unexpectedly excellent play. He finished with 17 points, including two huge back-to-back threes to give the Grizzlies their first lead of the 4th quarter.
The Memphis Grizzlies will attempt to silence the Utah Jazz for the third time this season on Monday night at the FedexForum.