Mike Conley earned every cent of his NBA record 153-million dollar contract on Saturday night. The ever-steady point guard scored a franchise postseason record 35 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out eight assists, went blow-for-blow with MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, and nailed countless clutch shots down the stretch as the Grizzlies, short-handed and on the ropes, defeated the Spurs 110-108 in an overtime thriller in the Grindhouse to tie the series up at two games apiece.
Leonard got his too. For the third time this postseason, the cyborg-of-a-basketball-player raised his playoff career-high, dropping 43 points to go along with eight rebounds and six steals, hit what felt to be several classic Spurs back-breaking jumpers and displayed his usual octopus-armed ferocity on defense.
But thanks to a few timely defensive plays from James Ennis III and Andrew Harrison, both of which were receiving heavy wing minutes due to Tony Allen’s injury absence, in the game’s waning moments, the Grizzlies were able to withstand a full body blow from Gregg Popovich’s squad and are now headed back to San Antonio with it all evened up.
Marc Gasol struggled early on in the action, but Big Spain finished with 16 points, 12 boards, and of course, the off-balance game-winner in overtime, the first go-ahead field goal in the final 10 seconds of a playoff game in Grizzlies franchise history.
Zach Randolph collected a reliable double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds), JaMychal Green provided a scoring punch off the bench with 14 points, and Vince Carter, who guarded Leonard for stretches of the night, became the first 40-year-old to hit three or more three-pointers in a playoff game en route to scoring 13 points. I know father time is undefeated, but in true Half-Man, Half-Amazing fashion, Vince is giving Father Time all he can handle.
For Memphis to continue its success into Game 5, they cannot allow Tony Parker to have another turn-back-the-clock performance. The French floor general turned in a vintage 22-4-5 line on Saturday night, as fellow backcourt veteran Manu Ginobili did not score a single point.
The win was a huge victory for a team few expected to compete with the 61-win Spurs. But, as the Grizzlies have proved year-in and year-out in the Grindhouse era, there is no quit in this bunch.
With Conley playing every bit like the Highest Paid Player in the NBA, David Fizdale getting the most out of a less-than-stellar offense, some typically gritty Grizzlies defense, and maybe another season-saving moment from a role player, this Memphis squad has more than enough to take down the mighty Spurs for the first time since the Grit n Grind coming out party in the 2011 playoffs.