Conley returns to lead Grizzlies over Knicks
Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Mike Conley made an impact in his return from injury, recording nine of his 22 points in the final five minutes to help lift the Memphis Grizzlies to a 98-93 victory over the New York Knicks at FedEx Forum.
Conley, who had missed the Grizzlies' last seven games with a sprained right ankle, went just 6-of-15 from the field, but came up huge down the stretch as Memphis closed out the contest on a 13-3 run to prevail.
Mike Miller also had a big hand in the Grizzlies' 15th triumph in their last 19 outings, pouring in a season-high 19 points off the bench while hitting 5- of-7 attempts from 3-point range.
"I thought we really gutted it out the last six minutes," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. "We just made a lot of plays."
The Knicks battled back from a 13-point halftime deficit before ultimately being dealt a sixth loss in seven games. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19 of his 23 points after the break to lead the comeback effort.
Carmelo Anthony, fresh off a dazzling 30-point effort in Sunday's All-Star Game, finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for New York.
The Knicks' second-half surge resulted in a 90-85 lead following two Anthony free throws with 2:39 left, but Conley knocked down a pair of foul shots on the ensuing possession before Zach Randolph posted up and scored after Hardaway misfired from long range, with the bucket bringing the Grizzlies within one with 1:51 remaining.
Courtney Lee then came up with a stellar defensive play for Memphis, rejecting J.R. Smith underneath the basket to force a turnover. Conley penetrated into the lane on the Grizzlies' next trip and sunk a go-ahead runner with 1:18 to go.
"The plays that Mike Conley made and just gutted it out, he was fantastic down the stretch," Joerger stated.
A Hardaway three put New York back on top, but Randolph found a wide-open Miller and the veteran buried a trey from the top of the key to give Memphis a 94-93 edge with 45.9 seconds showing.
After Smith air-balled a corner 3-point try after Anthony kicked the ball out to him, Conley drained two more free throws to lengthen the lead to three points. Both Hardaway and Pablo Prigioni failed on beyond-the-arc shots that would have forced overtime before Lee sealed the win with two foul shots with 4.8 ticks left.
"I thought we played great in the second half," said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. "We were [15 points] down, we just kept chipping away. "We just couldn't make the plays that we needed to."
Conley's jumper to begin the second half staked Memphis to a 52-37 advantage, but the Grizzlies went cold over the rest of the third quarter to allow the Knicks to close the gap. Tyson Chandler netted the first five points of a 10-2 surge that pulled New York within 56-53 midway through the session, and it was a one-point game after Raymond Felton followed a Hardaway layup to make the score 60-59 with 3:25 left in the period.
The Grizzlies curtailed the momentum with six straight points, but a Hardaway three and Anthony's outside jumper cut Memphis' advantage to 66-64 entering the fourth.
New York kept charging, with Hardaway hitting two more threes and Anthony another during a 16-4 burst that sent the Knicks in front by an 82-76 score with 6:17 to play.
Earlier, Memphis built a 22-17 lead after one quarter on the strength of its defense, holding Anthony to only one point and the Knicks to a 7-of-21 success rate from the floor over the opening period. The Grizzlies then turned it up on the offensive end in the second to move ahead comfortably.
Miller tallied eight points to lead a 10-4 push to begin the frame, and Memphis strung together an 11-2 run later in the quarter to extend the margin to 45-27 with four minutes left in the half.
The Grizzlies shot a strong 64.7 percent for the second stanza, though New closed it out well to trim its deficit to 50-37 at the break following Anthony's successful layup just prior to the buzzer.
Smith, playing with a protective mask after fracturing his cheekbone at Oklahoma City nine days ago, managed just four points on 2-of-8 shooting ... Memphis swept the season series with New York, having previously earned a 95-87 decision at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21 ... Randolph finished with 13 points and eight rebounds ... The Grizzlies went 6-of-12 on 3-point tries and outscored New York 42-32 in the paint.