With Mike Conley’s time as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies potentially coming to an end, we thought it would be a good time to look back on the top moments of Conley’s career as a Grizz. Mike has been instrumental in the growing popularity of the Grizzlies in Memphis over the past 12 years, helping to lead the team from the butt of NBA jokes, to a consistent Western Conference Playoffs contender.
If this truly is the end of the road for Conley and the Grizzlies, which is probably best for both parties at this point in time, let’s look back on the memories MAC11 left us fondly… they sure were fun.
1. Return From Broken Face, 2015 Playoffs Game 2 @ Warriors
This could very well be the most memorable game in Grizzlies history, although there are a few other games that make appearances on this list that also have viable cases.
In case you can’t clearly remember the events of this May 2015 game, Mike Conley had suffered a blowout fracture to the entire left-side of his face just 10 days prior, when he took a hit from the elbow of Portland’s C.J. McCollum in Game 3 of the Grizzlies-Blazers first round series.
In Game 1 of the second round Grizzlies-Warriors series, Golden State trounced Memphis by 16. Before Game 2, Steph Curry was named MVP and the trophy presentation took place minutes before tip-off. Even more, the Warriors had won 21-straight at Oracle Arena, were 41-2 at home on the year including playoffs, and finished the regular season at 67-15. This was supposed to be a night of celebration for Golden State.
But Mike Conley didn’t care about any of that. He came out and scored 9 points in the first 7 minutes of the game and chased Steph Curry around for most of the 27 minutes his body would allow him to play. Curry responded with one of his worst games of the postseason, finishing with just 19 points on 7 of 19 shooting and just 2 of 11 from behind the arc.
Conley finished with 22 points while shooting 67% from the field and 50% from deep. He finished a +9 to Curry’s -8, and proved that he has the heart of a lion and an immeasurable will to win. If you want to relive the 10 days Conley struggled through prior to Game 2, check out this article from Sports Illustrated.
2. The Conley-Kawhi Showdown
It was April of 2017 and the David Fizdale “They Not Gon’ Rook Us” and “Take That For Data” rant was the source of extreme vitriol towards the NBA and its Referees from just about everyone who reps GrizzNation. The rant came following a Grizzlies loss in San Antonio in Game 2 of the first round of the 2017 Playoffs. The Grizzlies then won game 3 to set up this epic showdown.
Game 4 saw Memphis fall behind early before Conley ignited a 23-4 run midway through the first half to give the Grizzlies the lead at halftime. Late in the 4th quarter, Kawhi went into superstar mode trying to will the Spurs to victory. Leonard finished with 43 points (14-30 shooting) and became the first player in NBA history to finish with 40+ points, 5+ steals, and 5+ 3-pointers made in a Playoff game.
But MAC11 never backed down. Conley finished with 35 points of his own, including 11 in the 4th quarter and his patented right-handed floater sent the game to overtime when it swished through the net with 4.5 seconds remaining. 35 points set a playoff-career high for the point guard and he also chipped in 9 rebounds and 10 assists to go along with the bevy of floaters he sank throughout the game. If you were in attendance, this is one of the games you’ll likely never forget.
3. 40 Point Game & Player of the Week
In his 12th season in the NBA, Conley finally won NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors for his performance from March 4, 2019 – March 10, 2019. He led a resurgent Grizzlies squad to a 3-0 record while averaging 31.3 points, 7.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and a steal while shooting 55.6% from beyond the arc and 57.4% overall.
At the beginning of the week, Conley was matched up with 4-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA selection (for now), Damian Lillard. Conley is 16-7 in his career against Dame, but he got off to a slow start in this matchup, going scoreless in the first quarter.
Mike proceeded to go 6-7 from 3-point land and 12-18 overall, en route to scoring 40 points which included 19 in the 4th quarter to erase a 16 point Blazers lead. Conley hit a clutch 3 over Lillard with 2:27 remaining before converting a 4-point play from the same spot shortly afterwards.
Conley bolstered his stats for the week by scoring 28 against Utah, including 13 in the 4th quarter and handing out a season-high 11 assists. He then closed out the week by leading Memphis to their 3rd straight victory over a 2019 Playoff squad, as scored 14 points in the 4th quarter, 26 overall, and spearheaded a 12-0 Grizzlies run at the end of regulation to erase a 2-point deficit to Orlando. Amidst yet another season of Turmoil, Conley played the best ball of his 12-year career.
4. The One That Set Off The 3OT Classic
Ahhh, ok. Maybe this moment should be ranked higher, due to the fact that this Playoff run energized the Grizzlies fanbase into what it is today. Sure you had your diehards who were there from the very beginning, but the 2011 upset of San Antonio and 7-game series against the Thunder brought about a new wave of GrizzNation.
And here we were, Mike Conley playing in the NBA Playoffs for the first time in his career along with almost everyone else on the roster. After upsetting the top-seeded Spurs, Memphis was up 2 games to 1 on the Thunder with Game 4 taking place on Beale Street.
Conley went just 1-6 from deep and 2-12 from the field overall in this one, but the one 3-pointer he did hit was crucial. With 5 seconds remaining, Conley released a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Kendrick Perkins following a Gasol screen. Conley had gotten to the left wing and saw the opening to fire away with his Grizz trailing by 3, and sank the biggest shot of his young career to send the game to OT. Memphis would, of course, fall in the 3rd OT, and Conley would foul out after scoring 16 points to go with 5 dimes.
5. 1st Playoff Game (Double-Double) and 1st Playoff Win in Grizz History
In the first postseason game of his NBA career, Conley and the 8th-seeded Grizzlies upset the top-seeded Spurs in San Antonio, 101-98, in Game 1 of the 2011 Playoffs. At the time the Spurs were 4-time Champions and the Grizzlies had just 4 players on their roster with postseason experience.
Conley repeatedly put Zach Randolph (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (24 points, 9 rebounds) in position to score, finishing with 10 assists to go along with 15 points. His biggest assist of the game came with 24 seconds left, when he Shane Battier on the left wing for the go ahead 3-pointer that now forever lives in Grizzlies history. It was a magical moment for the franchise and the team used the momentum to proceed to win the series 4-2, before advancing to play OKC in the aforementioned matchup.
First NBA Game-Winner
I couldn’t find a good video of this one, but the Grizzlies had not beat Cleveland in 4 years, but on December 8, 2009 Mike Conley drove past Shaquille O’Neal to be the Cavs 111-109 in overtime at FedExForum. “He gave me the AI, carry-hess move, and he got me,” said Shaq following the game.
April 2013 Game-Winner Against Spurs for Win #50
This game-winning layup against Danny Green, who was widely regarded as one of the best perimeter defender in the league around these days, notched the Grizzlies 50th win of the season, for just the second time in franchise history and the first of the Grit N Grind era. Memphis went on to finish 56-26 on the season before earning a berth in the Western Conference Finals against these same damned Spurs.
Game-Tying Triple To Avoid Embarrassing Loss
This one came in December 2014, with the Grizzlies sitting at 18-4 and winners of 3 straight, on the second night of a back-to-back following a 2OT win in Charlotte the night before. Memphis was in danger of losing to the tanking 76ers who had just 2 wins on the year, but as we became accustomed to over the years, Conley saved the day with this 3-ball and the Grizz went on to win and then extended their streak to 6-straight before winning 55 games on the season.
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[Top Photo: Joe Murphy/Getty Images]