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01/30/2014 1:46 AM EST
Conley leads Grizzlies to 99-89 win against Kings
MEMPHIS 99, SACRAMENTO 89

By JEFF WEIDEL
The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike
Conley is playing like an All-Star lately. Soon he'll find out
if he gets to be one.

Conley had 27 points and 10 assists as the Grizzlies won their
fourth straight by beating the slumping Sacramento Kings 99-89
on Wednesday night.

One night after outplaying Portland guard Damian Lillard in the
Grizzlies' impressive 98-81 victory, Conley backed it up with an
even better game against the Kings.

Conley, who will find out Thursday if he will be picked as one
the Western Conference reserves, made 8 of 14 shots, hit two
threes, and had two steals. He scored nine points in the fourth
quarter.

"I won't let it bother me at all if I don't make it. It's
something I can't control," Conley said. "If it happens, it
happens. I'm just playing ball right now. I'm playing at a high
level and doing what my team needs me to do to do. I'm just
playing to win."

And the Grizzlies are doing plenty of that lately, winning for
the ninth time in 10 games. They put their latest win away in
the fourth quarter, getting six steals and converting several of
them into easy layups.

Memphis shot 11 of 18 and made 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth
quarter in pulling away from the Kings, who cut the lead to four
points at the 5:20 mark.

The Grizzlies had nine of their 24 assists in the fourth
quarter.

Conley got plenty of help at the offensive end with Zach
Randolph scoring six points and Tayshaun Prince getting six, all
in the final three minutes.

"Our chemistry right now is as good as I've ever seen it,"
Memphis coach David Joerger said. "Our confidence is high and
we're really trying to stay in the moment."

Isaiah Thomas scored 24 points and Rudy Gay had 23 for the
Kings, who have lost five straight and seven of eight.

DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' leading scorer and rebounder,
missed his fourth straight game with an ankle sprain. The Kings
are hoping to have Cousins back for Friday's game in Dallas.

Gay, a former Memphis player, had missed the previous three
games with an Achilles strain. He made a turnaround jumper in
the fourth quarter to surpass 10,000 career points.

However, Gay was limping some in the fourth quarter and also
after the game in the locker room. But he expected to play
against Dallas.

"I kind of tweaked my foot a little bit more. But it doesn't
matter. I still feel that we could have won the game," Gay said.
"I was a little rusty. I'm not used to being out. I've actually
been hurt one time in my career that actually made me miss more
than one game.

"So it was a little tough on me. It's going to happen."

Kings coach Michael Malone has been critical of his team's
defense for much of the season and Wednesday's game was no
different.

"I told our team afterward that I am going to start playing guys
who are willing to defend," Malone said. "And if are not ready
to defend ... I can no longer be a hypocrite. I've been a
hypocrite the whole year. I got the job in June and I preached
defense and that's what I believe in. We're one of the worst
defensive teams in the league."

Randolph had 18 points for the Grizzlies, who won their fifth
straight road game and have a 12-7 record away from home. Marc
Gasol had 12 points and Mike Miller scored 11.

It's no coincidence the Grizzlies' strong play has coincided
with the return of Gasol, last year's Defensive Player of the
Year who missed 23 games with a sprained knee. A protector of
the rim, creative passer and reliable scorer, Gasol has been
instrumental in the Grizzlies' 7-1 record since his return.

In the past two-plus week, the Grizzlies have beaten Phoenix,
Houston twice, and Oklahoma City. Memphis finishes its
three-game road trip Friday night in Minnesota.

"Ever since we got Marc back we've been playing better," Prince
said. "You can see our confidence coming back. He helps us so
much on defense. He has a real presence back there. When he was
out we couldn't get stops regularly like we are now."

After making a corner jumper, Prince stole the ball from Gay and
converted with a driving layup to give Memphis a 92-85 lead. A
basket by Conley and a layup by Prince increased the lead to
nine.

Randolph came up with a loose ball and fed Davis for a dunk at
the other end, concluding an 11-4 run and putting Memphis up
82-71. But the Kings came back and cut the lead to three on
Thomas' 3-pointer at the 4:35 mark.

Conley had 11 points in the third quarter when the Grizzlies
outscored Sacramento 21-17 and took a 69-63 lead into the
fourth.

"I thought out defense was the key. There are very good
offensive team that can score in bunches and has a lot of
firepower,' Conley said. "We're getting two, three, four stops
in a row. We're not a high-octane team. But our defense is
always consistent."

Gay had a strong second quarter with 10 points and was difficult
to stop in the third as well. He came up with a loose ball near
midcourt and sprinted toward the basket for an emphatic dunk
that brought the crowd to its feet and put the Kings ahead
61-59.

Gasol scored eight points and the Grizzlies shot 52 percent and
led 48-46 lead at intermission. Both Gay and Thomas had 12
points for the Kings.

NOTES: Conley moved past Gay for the all-time franchise record
for games played (480). ... Kings public address announcer Scott
Moak was sick and missed his first game behind the mic in 12
years. His replacement was Jamie Coffee, a longtime Sacramento
radio DJ. ... Memphis reserve forward Miller scored seven points
in a 61-second span late in the second quarter.

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