For the second time this season, the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday played a significant amount of time without starting point guard Mike Conley.
This time, however, it cost them mightily.
The Grizzlies entered Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets in FedExForum hoping to end their four-game homestand on a positive note heading into Monday night’s outing at Philadelphia. But after Conley sustained a left ankle sprain less than five minutes into the contest, Memphis found it difficult to execute its pick-at-roll offense and ultimately was a dealt a 91-83 by what seemingly was a healthier and more poised Hornets squad.
Conley, who traveled with the team to Philadelphia Sunday night, is expected to be re-evaluated on Monday and is listed as probable, team sources said. A five-year veteran, Conley’s injury occurred with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter when he said his left ankle “gave out” in transition after stepping in front of New Orleans’ Anthony Davis for a steal.
“I immediately felt a pop and pain and tried to play on it for a moment,” Conley said in the locker room after the game. “I really couldn’t run and injured it and tried to play on it, and when I went out, (the team doctor) told me not to go back out because it didn’t look good for me to play on a bad ankle.”
Conley, who watched the rest of the game from a room adjacent to the locker room, wore a productive boot to prevent further harm to his ankle. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told reporters he was unsure of Conley’s status, but said, “He will probably play (Monday) night, but there’s no real word.”
Unlike in their November 26 game against Cleveland, when the Grizzlies withstood a late rally to win, 84-78, while Conley sat out because of flu-like symptoms, Memphis struggled offensively against the Hornets and couldn’t exhibit enough energy to counter the opposition’s fourth-quarter surge. The Grizzlies (28-15) shot a frigid 31 percent from the field after intermission. It also didn’t help that Zach Randolph, who led the Grizzlies with 20 points, was held scoreless in the decisive fourth quarter in which Memphis was limited to just 23 percent shooting from the field and was outscored, 27-15.
Sunday’s loss snapped the Grizzlies’ two-game winning streak.
“It was tough to watch,” Conley said after his streak of double-digit scoring ended at six games. “We had been kind of playing so well. But they’re up and down and really hurt us in the pick and pops, and down the stretch, we turned it over a few times and really couldn’t get nothing going. It’s very crucial we all stay healthy. We all feed off each other. You know, when I’m out, we’re missing a big part in terms of how we orchestrate things on the floor.
“Not knocking JB (reserve Jerryd Bayless) or anybody, but we need every guy healthy,” Conley added. “We can be missing Zach, Rudy (Gay), myself, or Marc (Gasol).”