OKLAHOMA CITY (AFP) – Mike Conley finished with 20 points and five assists as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 91-89 Friday to post their franchise record sixth straight win to start the season.
Courtney Lee scored 17 points and Zach Randolph had 16 points and seven boards for the Grizzlies, who started their NBA existence in Vancouver before moving to Memphis in 2001.
“I am happy with what we are doing but we know we have a long way to go,” Conley said. “We know this is only six games. We are still striving to be great.”
The Grizzlies had lost three straight and seven of the last 10 games in Oklahoma City heading into Friday’s contest.
Reggie Jackson scored a game-high 22 points for the injury-depleted Thunder who are without superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant has a foot injury and Westbrook is out with a hand injury.
Jeremy Lamb had a solid season debut with 17 points while Steven Adams finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds in front of a crowd of 18,203 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In a rematch of last season’s first round playoff series that the Thunder won in seven games, Memphis led for the entire game until late in the fourth.
“We tried to play our game,” Conley said. “They tried to force us to make outside shots and we told our guys ‘You have to make them if we are going to win.’”
The Grizzlies led 22-19 after one quarter and led by as many as nine in the second, taking a 49-40 lead into halftime.
Memphis couldn’t shake the pesky Thunder as it took a 66-62 lead into the fourth.
Lamb nailed a three pointer with just over four minutes to go in the fourth to tie it 81-81. Thunder guard Jackson hit a jump shot that was sandwiched between a pair of Memphis three pointers to stretch the Grizzlies lead to four points.
The Thunder took their only lead of the game with 53 seconds remaining on back-to-back threes by Serge Ibaka and Jackson.
But on the next Memphis possession, Conley responded with a three-pointer for a 90-89 lead.
After an empty possession from each team, Oklahoma City was whistled for a five-second turnover on the inbounds. But Lee made just one-of-two free throws with just three seconds on the clock.
Ibaka then fired long on the potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
“This team is very good. We want to play every game like it is the 82nd game going into the playoffs,” Conley said.
The Grizzlies’ next game is a visit to Milwaukee where they will try to win their fifth straight road game.