The Memphis Grizzlies wouldn’t let Kevin Durant come through in the clutch for the second straight time.
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 tie the series at one and 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 for the next two 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 with 15 seconds left, and Oklahoma City was forced to foul.
In all, the Thunder came up empty on five straight possessions after Conley’s go-ahead 3.
”After they scored, there was such little time on the clock, we were just trying to get a quick basket,” Durant said, ”and it didn’t go so well for us.”
In Game 1, Durant was able to hit back-to-back jumpers in the final minute to put Oklahoma City in front to stay.
With fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook out for the rest of the playoffs following knee surgery, the load once again fell squarely on his shoulders.
”I can carry as much as coach needs me to carry,” Durant said. ”I made those shots last game. I missed them this game. I’m just going to continue to keep taking them.”
Zach Randolph added two free throws with 13.7 seconds left, and Allen then stepped in front of Durant to steal a pass and provide the finishing touches with a dunk. Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Oklahoma City.
”The last game, we didn’t execute down the stretch, didn’t get the stops when we needed them and tonight we did vice-versa,” Conley said. ”We got the stops, got the rebounds, made big shots and free throws.”
Neither team led by more than seven in the game.
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 Conley connected two possessions later after receiving a pass from a double-teamed Gasol in the lane.
”He’s a steady point guard that deserves more credit than he gets,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”I understand the value he has to that team. He plays for his team every night, and I appreciate the way he plays.”
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.
”Too many offensive rebounds, too many turnovers for us to overcome,” Brooks said.
Randolph ended up with 15 points and eight rebounds and Allen had 12 points and five steals.
Fisher had 19 points for the Thunder, making four of five 3-point attempts. Kevin Martin, coming off back-to-back 25-point games, scored six on 2-for-11 shooting.
Durant began the fourth quarter on the bench as Memphis put all five of its starters on the floor, then quickly overcame a 74-69 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.
Notes: Brooks said 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.