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VOL. 128 | NO. 245 | Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Grizz Games Ending in Predictable Fashion

By DON WADE

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Point guard Mike Conley stood at his locker after the Grizzlies had lost their third straight game, seen their home record drop to 5-9 (they were 32-9 at home last season), and their overall record fall to 10-13.

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who took a knee to the left quad Sunday, hopes to be back on the court when the Grizz play the Lakers Tuesday, Dec. 17.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But there was good news: Conley was, in fact, standing under his own power.

After scoring 28 points, Conley limped off the court with just under four minutes to go in the Grizzlies’ 101-93 loss to Minnesota Sunday at FedExForum. Conley said he took a knee to the left quad and couldn’t put pressure on it. But nothing’s fractured, torn or sprained.

That’s cause for a collective civic sigh of relief. He’s hoping to play on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Conley said. “All the things we expected to do, we haven’t done.”

Those things, in no particular order, would include: play good defense, run an efficient offensive scheme, make outside shots, stay healthy and play with the focus and energy that was the hallmark of a 56-win team that reached the Western Conference Finals last season.

To what extent the injuries have contributed to the craziness is a matter of ongoing debate. All-Star center Marc Gasol (left MCL sprain) is out indefinitely. Swingman Quincy Pondexter (foot fracture) has been lost for the season. Shooting guard Tony Allen missed several games. So did forward Ed Davis. And by all accounts veteran forward Tayshaun Prince has been playing hurt from day one.

First-year coach Dave Joerger somewhat blunted the suggestion after Sunday’s game that the Grizzlies are suffering bad luck.

“Things have gone our way for the last four years,” said Joerger, who was elevated from his assistant coaching position when management didn’t retain Lionel Hollins as head coach. “Last year, we were one of the least-injured teams. We’ve had some wonderful non-injury times.”

The Grizzlies played through the Rudy Gay injury in the 2010-2011 season to reach the conference semifinals. They were a playoff team the following season despite power forward Zach Randolph missing substantial time due to injury and not being the same player upon return.

But losing to Minnesota, which got back to .500 at 12-12, hurts.

“These are teams that are in our wheelhouse,” Joerger said. “Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, Minnesota, the Lakers, we’re in that group. That’s where we have to try and climb to the top of that pile and hang in there as long as we can until Marc gets back.”

The Timberwolves made a season-high 12 threes against Memphis Sunday and power forward Kevin Love led the way with 30 points and 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range. Minnesota stopped an 11-game losing streak to the Grizzlies and had not won in Memphis since 2009.

“I can’t remember winning here,” Love said. “It’s been a long time. Last time was in the first two months of my career. That’s wild.”

Although the Grizzlies played from behind all night, down by 19 in the second quarter, they were within two early in the fourth quarter and only down three, at 95-92 at the 2:26 mark when Randolph made a finger-roll layup. But they never drew closer.

“We’ve got to get out to a better start and our defense has got to get better,” said Randolph, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds but struggled to guard Love. “Our defense has got to get better.”

Meantime, Randolph said he’s not bothered by the latest round of rumors that have him being traded.

“It’s a business. I understand it,” he said. “This ain’t my first go-round. I’m in trade rumors every year.”

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