Most of the praise the Memphis Grizzlies receive has to do with their defense, and while the frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph is appreciated for what they do on offense as well, the chance for Mike Conley to earn the same accolades for what he does with the ball is rarer, but still something that happens once in a while.
In the 92-90 win over the San Antonio Spurs, the five-year veteran, who averaged 14.4 points per game this season, more than proved his offensive worthiness; not just by leading the team with 23 points, but also with his game winning layup with six seconds to go, giving the Grizzlies their first lead of the game since an 18-16 one during the first quarter.
The most surprising of contributions came from backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, who finished with 17 points as he and Conley combined for 18-29 from the field. The Spurs did a good job in holding Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inhibited (27 points combined) despite not having Tim Duncan in the lineup, but even the 25 points from Tony Parker couldn’t help them overcome a solid defensive performance and a surprising output from the point guard duo.
Despite the Rudy Gay trade, things have been looking pretty good for Memphis over the last couple of months, going 21-8 since the arrival of Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis. They’ve reached 50 wins for the first time since the 2003-2004 season, when Pau Gasol was still roaming these parts, while winning their 12th consecutive game at home, making it the second longest streak in franchise history.
The odds are still against the Grizzlies to do anything extraordinary in the playoffs, which means reaching the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. As much as they seem to be defensively perfect in their starting lineup, their lack of offensive consistency from the backcourt and not having enough players with the ability to create points on their own creates too many problems more than once in a while, and the general feeling is that in a series with the Clippers, just like last season, those offensive inferiority issues and inability to play transition basketball well will be too much to overcome.