Guard Mike Conley helping Grizzlies' strong start

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Conley and Stephen Curry are playing with great confidence, so much that they're in early MVP candidate conversations.

Their play also is why Curry and the Warriors and Conley's Grizzlies square off Tuesday night in a matchup of teams with the NBA's best records.

Conley has sparked Memphis to a franchise-best 19-4 start.

The guard scored a career-high 36 points to help Memphis rally from an 18-point deficit to beat Philadelphia in overtime Saturday night. He was at his best late in the road game, hitting four of five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the tying 3 at the end of regulation.

"Obviously, my outside shot's been falling, and I've been looking for my opportunity offensively trying to get to the rim, get to the free throw line as much as I can," Conley said before practice Monday. "And it's really allowed me to open up things for a lot of other people, and I think everybody else is kind of feeding off of that."

The result has Conley averaging a career-high 17.8 points through 23 games, second only to Marc Gasol with the Grizzlies. Conley also is shooting 48 percent from the floor and 44.9 percent beyond the arc — both would be the best in his eight seasons. He also leads the team handing out an average 6.3 assists per game.

Guard Courtney Lee said Conley talked throughout the game in Philadelphia that the Grizzlies were going to win. Conley's game-tying 3 came with a defender flying at him, and Lee said he knew once Conley had the ball in his hand the guard would make the right play.

"He's maturing," Lee said of Conley. "He's starting to understand when we need a big shot or we need a big play, he has to be involved. And nine times out of 10, he might be the guy that takes that shot. So I think he's grown as a game closer."

The Grizzlies have helped Conley score more by playing veteran Beno Udrih alongside him to help handle the ball and give him more room to work. Nick Calathes, who missed the first 13 games serving out a suspension, also can help out. They also give Conley much-needed rest in some games. Conley hit all eight shots in a win over Miami on Dec. 7 playing less than 28 minutes.

As well as Conley has been playing, Curry has been even hotter.

He and Golden State backcourt mate Klay Thompson have each scored 25 points or more in two straight games for the first time, helping extend Warriors' franchise-best winning streak to 16 straight. Curry scored eight of his 34 in overtime Sunday in New Orleans, and he is fifth in the NBA averaging 23.7 points a game.

"He's awesome to play alongside with, he knows when to pass and take the big shots," Thompson said of Curry. "He should definitely be mentioned in the MVP talks with the way he has been playing. He's a big reason for our success on this win streak."

Curry heard some MVP chants in New Orleans but is focusing on dealing with the expectations that come with each new win.

"I don't really listen to the MVP talk," Curry said. "That'll speak for itself at the end of the year."

Already 13-1 on the road, the Warriors sense no pressure in Memphis. Getting that 14th road win in Memphis could be difficult; the Grizzlies are 11-1 at home this season.

Conley said both teams are curious to measure themselves against the other.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Conley said. "It's a great challenge playing against a team that is playing very, very well. Obviously, they've got a lot of firepower over there so we're excited to have that challenge and take them on at home."

Not to mention the excitement and anticipation of the Curry-Conley matchup.


AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.


Follow Teresa M. Walker at

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