Grizzlies beat Thunder 99-93, even series at 1-1
This was Mike Conley's time to shine.
Conley scored 26 points and fueled a late Memphis run as the Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-93 on Tuesday night to gain home-court advantage in the Western Conference semifinals.
Conley hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:58 left to put the Grizzlies ahead to stay and spark a string of 10 straight Memphis points.
The Grizzlies head home to play three of the next four games, with Game 3 on Saturday in Memphis.
"Mike Conley is now one of the top five point guards in the league, whether anybody likes it or not," said Tony Allen, who had two of his five steals in the final minute.
"I know a lot of people have got their favorites on who they think it should be, but Mike Conley is in that conversation now, being able to do these types of things on the court night in and night out."
In the first round, Conley outdueled All-Star Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
And now, he filled the late-game void the Grizzlies created when they traded away leading scorer Rudy Gay in the middle of the season.
After Conley's go-ahead 3, he added an 18-foot jumper to stretch the lead to 94-90, then hit one of two free throws with 29.4 seconds left. He finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists, one shy of a triple-double.
"He played like he had been playing all season, and we needed that," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We needed to have somebody on the perimeter do something. He started getting to the basket a little bit and scored some big jump shots late."
After hitting the key baskets in Game 1, Durant couldn't provide an answer for the Thunder. He missed his last three shots, including a pair of 3-point attempts, and finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
The Thunder caught a break when Allen tipped the ball away and Conley saved it from going out of bounds, only for it to end up in Durant's hands in the corner. But Durant was off-target on a 3-pointer, and Oklahoma City was forced to foul.
Zach Randolph added two free throws, and Allen then stole the ball from Durant and provided the finishing touches with a dunk. Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Oklahoma City.
Neither team led by more than seven in a game destined to come down to the wire.
Durant put the Thunder ahead 88-86 with a three-point play off a leaner along the lane, only for Gasol to answer right back with a three-point play.
Kendrick Perkins provided Oklahoma City its last lead with two free throws with 2:41 to play, and the Thunder wouldn't score again on their next five possessions.
The Grizzlies, who had gotten 52 more shots and 24 more offensive rebounds than Oklahoma City in three regular-season meetings, were back to their usual formula after getting neutralized in those areas in the opener.
Memphis piled up a 48-30 scoring advantage in the paint and also outscored Oklahoma City 23-6 in second-chance points and 18-7 on the fast break. The Grizzlies also scored 29 points off 21 turnovers by the Thunder, who had just 10 in Game 1.
Randolph ended up with 15 points and eight rebounds and Allen had 12 points and five steals. Conley added 10 rebounds and nine assists, finishing one shy of a triple-double.
Durant put Oklahoma City up by five after three quarters, crossing over Quincy Pondexter and then driving for a right-handed slam while getting fouled.
He then hit two of three free throws after getting fouled by Darrell Arthur while trying to attempt a half-court shot before the third-quarter buzzer.
But Durant began the fourth quarter on the bench as Memphis put all five of its starters on the floor, then quickly reclaimed the lead with a 9-2 burst finished off by Conley's transition layup following an Allen steal.
Durant returned and scored 10 of Oklahoma City's next 12 points, but he couldn't finish it out.
Fisher had 19 points for the Thunder, making four of five 3-point attempts.
The Thunder found success midway through the second quarter with a smaller lineup — featuring Durant at power forward — against Memphis' All-Star frontcourt tandem, mostly because of a hot stretch from 3-point range.
Oklahoma City made four straight 3s, three of them from Fisher, in a 12-5 push to take a 45-40 lead.
Gasol was able to convert a three-point play and a putback inside against Durant during that stretch, and the Grizzlies surged back ahead after Oklahoma City matched the big lineup with Perkins re-entering.
Pondexter hit a fourth-chance jumper — after one offensive rebound by Gasol and two by Randolph — and then hit a 3-pointer in transition during a 7-0 burst that put Memphis ahead. The Grizzlies led 54-51 at halftime.
Notes: Thunder coach Scott Brooks said injured point guard Russell Westbrook will not be able to travel with the team to Memphis for Games 3 and 4 because of the surgery on his right knee that has sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs. Westbrook has been watching home games from a suite at the arena. "He has a competitive fire that not too many people have," Brooks said. "There's no question that that's what makes him a special player, and he brings it every single night. Not being able to do it obviously is challenging for him, but he's handling it well." ... Tony Wroten made his first appearance of the series late in the first quarter and immediately stole the ball from Fisher in the backcourt for a layup. ... Tulsa Shock first-round draft pick Skylar Diggins watched the game from a courtside seat along the baseline.
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