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May 10, 2013

Conley rising

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies have repeatedly been asked who will take the game-winning shot since the Rudy Gay trade on Jan. 30.

Mike Conley has been the answer during the playoffs.

The point guard scored 13 of his 26 points Tuesday night in the fourth quarter, helping the Grizzlies beat Oklahoma City 99-93 and even this Western Conference semifinal at 1-1. He also had 10 rebounds and nine assists to join Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Baron Davis as the only players with such a performance in a road playoff game in the past 25 years.

“After we lost Rudy, it was tough,” Conley said. “We didn’t know who was going to be that guy down the stretch. I’ve kind of had to assume that role, grow into it and live and learn from it. Sometimes I make shots, sometimes I don’t. I’m kind of getting used to it.”

Conley has been at his best over the past four games for Memphis, averaging 20.5 points with 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists as the Grizzlies finished off the Clippers in the first round and got the split in Oklahoma City. His biggest shot was a 3-pointer with 1:58 left that put Memphis ahead to stay in Game 2 followed by an 18-foot jumper.

If not for a Tony Allen miss late, Conley would have had a triple-double.

“I take that personally,” Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said. “I almost gave the guy a triple-double. I can’t let that happen again. I feel the great players always take things personally — the match-ups — and like I’ve said since day one, I want to be great. So, I have to do a better job of slowing him down and not letting the head of the snake bite us next game.”

Game 3 is Saturday in Memphis.

Since the trade, Conley said he’s worked on handling both the blame that comes with missing shots along with the attention that comes with being the guy everyone looks to at the end of games. It’s been an adjustment for a six-year veteran long accustomed to distributing the ball and playing hard on defense. He led the NBA in total steals this season with a career-high 174.

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