When talking about the best point guards in the NBA, Mike Conley doesn’t get mentioned too often. But he belongs there, and his performance in the 95-87 win by the Memphis Grizzlies over the San Antonio Spurs justifies his inclusion.
The Grizzlies have now beaten the Spurs on two consecutive nights. They might not look like it on the surface, but this is an organization trying to shadow and do some copying from the Spurs. Some of the ball movement and the team-oriented things make it seem like they’re on the right path. Having a point guard as the best offensive weapon but not always showing it and a big man who does it all on both ends of the floor and the key piece in the puzzle also reminds us of someone.
For Tim Duncan, this is only the third time he and the Spurs are finishing a month with a losing record, going just 7-10 in December 2014. The previous time was April 2013 (3-6) with plenty of garbage time games, but we have to go way way back to February 1999, the lockout season which the Spurs came out of as NBA champions, to find a month of the Spurs losing more games than they’ve won. They still have the Pelicans and Anthony Davis to face in order to fix impressions before it becomes 2015.
Conley scored 30 points to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists while shooting an impressive 10-of-13 from the field, including a huge 3-pointer in the final minutes as the Grizzlies pulled away from the Spurs. Tim Duncan made it only a 3-point game with 5:52 left on the clock, but big shots from Tayshaun Prince followed by Conley, Gasol and Courtney Lee hitting their attempts made it a less than tense finish, opening a 10 points lead and never letting it drop below eight.
Despite the absence of Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies made do with what they had, which was Jon Leuer and a lot of Prince coming off the bench. Gasol scored 17 points to go with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and a couple of blocks and Prince himself scored 12 points, not used to getting too involved with this team’s offense this season. Right now, even without key players, their defense, third-best in the West in terms of points allowed, keeps them looking more than just competitive.
The Spurs continue to look a bit from afar on the prime candidates for number one spot in the conference as of now. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard are still out. As useful as Danny Green can be in this system created to get the best out of players like him, the Spurs need their best players in order to put themselves in a good enough position to defend their NBA title, maybe once and for all putting an end to their failure when it comes to repeating.