The Memphis Grizzlies have done a miraculous job of taking the No. 2 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that looked destined to win it all this season, to a Game 7 in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. However, the only way it means anything is if the Grizzlies defeat the Thunder and pull off the upset Saturday night. In order to do that, they will need point guard Mike Conley to play through the pain of a right hamstring strain.
Conley originally strained the hamstring approximately three weeks ago in a contest against the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse over time. The breaking point appeared to be in the third quarter of Thursday night’s loss when Conley pulled up. He attempted to return in the fourth quarter but it was a no go.
If fans believe Memphis has a fighting chance without Conley, they better think again. The 26-year-old has a whopping 46 assists this postseason, which is 21 more than any other player on the Grizzlies has. Even though he doesn’t lead the team in points per game, he still makes the offense tick. All the evidence that is needed to know that is how Memphis’ scoring became stale in the fourth quarter in Game 6 without him. Conley has also shot an impressive 40.9 percent on 14.7 field goal attempts per game.
Veteran Beno Udrih is a solid replacement, but the Grizzlies are clearly better off with Conley running the show. The good news is there is a good chance Conley will be able to play. Unfortunately, the amount of minutes is still up in the air. Not to mention, the last thing Memphis needs to do is push him to the edge, especially if they advance to the next round.
Memphis has played Oklahoma City tough the entire series, which is why there should be a level of confidence heading into Game 7. With that being said, it will take a collective effort to rise above the occasion.