for this game

Conley leads Grizzlies past Timberwolves

Dec 3, 2009 - 5:04 AM MINNEAPOLIS(AP) -- Rudy Gay's plane from Baltimore didn't land in Minneapolis until less than 3 hours before the Memphis Grizzlies tipped off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. With less than 90 minutes until the game started, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley still wasn't sure if he would be medically cleared to play.

While Gay didn't have his typical pregame routine after attending a family member's funeral, and Conley did passing drills in the hallway outside of the locker room before the game to test his left shoulder, both Memphis players played well in the Grizzlies' 97-95 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Conley scored a season-high 20 points and tied his career high with four 3-pointers, while Gay scored 14 of his 20 points after halftime as Memphis rallied in the second half for the victory. And after both players missed a loss at Utah on Monday night, the rest of the Grizzlies were happy to have them back.

"I appreciate Conley coming back and Rudy coming back," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "We were tired and we needed everyone tonight."

When Conley woke up Wednesday morning, he wasn't sure he'd be able to play. After the morning shootaround, he was more optimistic. But it wasn't until after he completed nearly an hour of drills that he knew for sure.

"I had to see if I could withstand the bump and grind of a game," said Conley, injured while getting tangled up with Baron Davis on Sunday in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. "I was hoping I could play."

Conley said he was in pain throughout the game. Simply passing the ball hurt and the shoulder was especially painful after running into Al Jefferson's screen in the first half. But his production was crucial.

Because while Memphis has four players - Gay, O.J. Mayo, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol - who average at least 15 points, the Grizzlies are much better when Conley scores from the outside. Four of Memphis' seven victories this season have come in games in which Conley reaches double figures in scoring.

"He did a great job shooting the ball and getting to the rim," said Mayo, who finished with 17 points. "Defensively he did a great job on Jonny Flynn."

With Conley, who went 8 for 12 from the floor, scoring from the perimeter, the rest of the Grizzlies had room to operate. Along with Gay's front-line scoring, Randolph also finished with 20 points. That was key down the stretch.

With game tied at 88 with less than 5 minutes to play, Gay scored consecutive baskets. His transition layup with 4 minutes left - which came on a pass from Conley - gave Memphis a 92-88 lead.

Jefferson, who was held to 12 points, cut the Memphis lead to two, 94-92, with a pair of free throws with 2:08 to play. After Randolph scored four straight points to stretch the Memphis lead to 96-92, Minnesota's Ryan Gomes (20 points) hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to one.

Both teams missed key free throws in the final seconds. When Mayo missed the second free throw with 10.8 seconds to play, Minnesota had a final chance. With the Wolves down 97-95, Ramon Sessions (16 points) drove to the basket and was fouled with 1.8 seconds to play. Needing to make both free throws to tie the game, he missed the first free throw and the Timberwolves couldn't secure the rebound of the intentional miss.

The loss was more of the same for the Timberwolves, who were trying to win consecutive games for the first time this season. Since beating still-winless New Jersey to open the season, Minnesota has lost 16 of 17 games.

"Once again our youth was exposed," Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. "We won every quarter except the critical one. We couldn't get organized offensively, couldn't get good scoring chances, good looks."

For Memphis, the victory allows the Grizzlies to return home with a better feeling.

"We've been out on the road like 17 or 20 days this year," Hollins said. "We're a bit tired. At halftime I told the guys that as long as we're here, we might as well win the game. Don't feel sad that you're tired. Go out and win the game."

Conley and Gay made sure that happened.

NOTES: The Timberwolves are expected to learn Thursday if forward Kevin Love will be medically cleared to return to full action. Love, who has not played this season after breaking a bone in his left hand in a preseason game, has begun participating in practice. Rambis said it is possible that Love could return to action as soon as Friday at New Orleans. ... The game ends a stretch for Memphis in which the Grizzlies played 12 of their first 19 games on the road. The game completed a five-game trip.