Conley’s career-high sends Grizzlies past Portland

MEMPHIS, Tenn (AP) — Mike Conley went scoreless in the first quarter, then carried the Memphis Grizzlies down the stretch against a team jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference.

Conley scored 19 of his career-high 40 points in the fourth quarter as Memphis overtook the Portland Trail Blazers late for a 120-111 victory on Tuesday night.

Conley made six of his seven shots in the fourth, including all three three-point attempts, as Memphis erased a nine-point Portland lead in the final quarter with a 38-25 scoring advantage in the period.

“It was a lot of fun,” Conley said. “It was a weird game. Because I felt like I didn’t play well at the beginning of the game. The whole team really didn’t start well, and to end it the way that we did and for me to play like that in the second half was special.”

For three-plus quarters it looked as if Portland would end its season-longest seven-game trip on a successful note. The Trail Blazers, who led by 16 in the first quarter, appeared headed to closing the trek with a 6-1 record because they held an 86-82 lead entering the fourth and stretched it to nine points with eight minutes left.

But Conley started his 19-point push with a three-pointer. That began an 11-2 rally that pulled Memphis even at 96-all. After a couple of ties and trio of lead changes, Memphis pulled away down the stretch, a key basket coming on a four-point play by Conley with 1:38 left.

Delon Wright matched his career high with 25 points and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 17.

CJ McCollum led Portland with 27 points, while Damian Lillard added 24. Maurice Harkless finished with 20 points.

“We had a 16-point lead, and they just kept playing and defending,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the Grizzlies. “Mike Conley was outstanding. He had his shot going and was directing the offense. And he got into us defensively.”

While Conley was scoring, the Trail Blazers were struggling. While Portland was nine of 18 from the field in the fourth, it missed all six of its shots from beyond the arc. Coupled with six turnovers in the final 12 minutes, Memphis was able to overtake Portland.

The loss, along with Oklahoma City losing to Minnesota, plus the Houston defeating the Toronto Raptors, left the Trail Blazers, Thunder and Rockets all tied for the Western Conference’s third playoff spot with identical 39-25 records.