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Conley carries Grizzlies past Spurs

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Mike Conley carried Memphis early, then buried San Antonio late Tuesday in the Grizzlies’ 95-87 victory over the Spurs before a sellout crowd of 18,119 at FedExForum.

Hoping to earn his first NBA All-Star nod this season, the Grizzlies’ veteran point guard scored a game-high 30 points and hit a key 3-pointer with 3:10 left to help Memphis close out 2014 with its second win over the Spurs in three meetings this month.

Conley scored a combined 21 points in the first and fourth quarters as Memphis (23-8) won for just the second time in five games this season without Zach Randolph, who missed his fifth straight game with a sore right knee.

“I’m doing what I can do. I can control only what I can control — that’s what I do on the court — and win these games for my team, and the rest will take care of itself,” said Conley, who entered Tuesday’s game averaging 19.9 points on 47.5 percent shooting in the month of December.

“I don’t know what people are saying. I don’t read anything. I’m just hoping that maybe one day I’ll get that opportunity. I really just let my game speak for itself and hopefully I get in there.”

Center Marc Gasol had 17 points and nine rebounds and forward Tayshaun Prince added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench for Memphis, which has now won two straight games after dropping a season-high four in a row this month to Chicago, Cleveland, Utah and Houston.

“There are points in the season where you have to push through, and this is one of them,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said of going 8-6 in the month of December. “Around Christmas time you push through and get to the next level. There’s another one at the All-Star break and then one after that.

“Hopefully we pull ourselves out of it and we’ve got fresh legs and the mindset that if we guard, that’s where we hang our hat, and then we go down and have fun playing offense.”

San Antonio (19-14), playing without point guard Tony Parker (left hamstring strain) and forward Kawhi Leonard (bruised right hand), got 18 points apiece from starting guards Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph.

But Spurs stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined for just 15 points, with Ginobili going 2-for-7 from the field.

“We were working hard, putting in effort, but things weren’t falling for us. They weren’t going our way,” said Spurs guard Danny Green (seven points, three rebounds), who went just 1 of 6 from 3-point range as San Antonio made just 5 of 22 shots from beyond the arc.

“We missed a lot of easy ones that we normally make from behind the arc and in the paint.”

As poorly as San Antonio shot the ball over the game’s first three quarters (40.7 percent), the Spurs still managed to cut a 16-point second-half deficit to three (80-77) with 5:51 left to play on a 13-footer by Duncan.

But Gasol answered with a 16-foot jumper off a behind-the-back pass from Tony Allen. Prince then buried a 22-footer to push the lead back to seven (84-77) before Conley pushed in the dagger with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer.

“We just got ourselves in the hole,” Duncan said. “We were just fighting out of it the whole time. They shot the ball well, especially Mike. He got out of the gates real quick and got them the lead.

“We had a couple guys who showed up to play and other guys just couldn’t get it going. It hurts to be in the position like this and still be able to hypothetically win a game and just can’t get over that hump.”

Conley finished 10 of 13 from the field and added seven rebounds and six assists. He scored 16 first-quarter points on 7 of 7 shooting, and his 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left in the opening period gave the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the quarter at 30-20. Conley finished the game 4 of 5 from long range.

“If it was up to me, I’d have my whole team on the All-Star team, but Mike Conley is playing at a really high level,” Gasol said. “I think he’s doing everything he can to be there, but it can’t be a goal. It has to be a result. I think if it happens it’s great and it is the result of you playing great, especially of you winning.”

Memphis and San Antonio had split two previous meetings this month, which included a dramatic 117-116 triple-overtime win for the Grizzlies on Dec. 17 in San Antonio.

NOTES: Grizzlies F Zach Randolph (sore right knee) missed his fifth consecutive game. Memphis is 2-3 without him this season and 2-5 since last season. Coach Dave Joerger said Randolph remains day-to-day. … Spurs G Tony Parker (mild left hamstring strain) and F Kawhi Leonard (bruised right hand) were both inactive. Leonard has been out since Dec. 17, while Parker missed his third game in a row. … San Antonio is closing out a busy month of December with its seventh back-to-back of the month. The Spurs play host to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. San Antonio’s 18 games this month tie the franchise record. … Grizzlies C Marc Gasol has scored 20-plus points 17 times this season after doing so just eight times in 59 appearances last season.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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