MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It didn't seem that long ago when the public sentiment was to trade Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley.
The criticisms? He's too light, he gets abused by bigger guards. Sure, he can penetrate, but he can't finish at the rim. Give him the open outside shot because he can't hit it.
So leave it to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, after watching Conley drill a tying 3-pointer with 30.7 seconds left and then softly kiss in the winning basket on a drive with 0.6 of a second remaining for 92-90 Grizzlies victory on Monday night, to assess Conley's game.
"He becomes a better player every year," said Popovich, whose Western Conference-leading Spurs (55-19) split the four-game season series with the Grizzlies (50-24). "He's more confident, he's expanded his game and he made the biggest shot of the game. It was a great shot."
For the longest time in FedExForum, it looked like the Spurs would survive not having the services of starting forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, both scratches because of sore left ankles. Manu Ginobili (strained right hamstring) also missed his second consecutive game.
With San Antonio minus a collective 41.2 points and 19.2 rebounds from the injured trio, the numbers had to come from somewhere. The Spurs got 30 points from their bench, which carried San Antonio to a six-point lead with 8:16 to play.
Realizing the Grizzlies had to match the Spurs' sideline-to-sideline firepower -- San Antonio is third in the NBA in 3-point percentage - Memphis coach Lionel Hollins went with three guards.
His shrewdest move? Putting backup point guard Jerryd Bayless on the floor in the fourth quarter with Conley and shifting Bayless to a shooting guard.
It worked beautifully for the Grizzlies. The duo scored 19 of the team's 30 fourth-quarter points, combining to hit 9 of 16 shots from the field. Conley finished with 23 points and Bayless had 17.
"I think J.B. is better playing at the two than he is the one," Hollins said. "He can still play pick and roll, which he is outstanding, and he wants to score. He makes a couple, he just keeps going. You just keep riding him, the other guys played defense and it allows Mike to rest."
It was Bayless who drew the defense away from Conley and gave him a wide-open look on his tying 3-point bomb. And when Tony Parker's 14-foot potential game-winning runner rolled off the rim, allowing Memphis to rebound and call time with 6.2 seconds left, Conley took Spurs' guard Danny Green to school on the winner.
Green, amazingly, allowed the left-handed Conley to go left.
"It seemed like they were giving me that (the left-handed drive), so that was my favorite way to go," Conley said. "We drew up a play to create some space. I saw a gap to drive to get fouled or make a play going to the rim. I was able to get a good look and knocked it down. It felt great."
In the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies made 12 of 19 shots from the field (63.2 percent), finishing at 45.6 percent. The Spurs weren't terrible in the fourth, hitting 7 of 16 (43.8) to finish just under 50 percent (36 of 75, 48 percent) for the game.
Without Duncan, Popovich put the game totally in Parker's hands down the stretch, but he could only make one of his last four shots in the final 4:15.
"It's always a great game with Memphis," said Parker, whose Spurs had beaten the Grizzlies six of the last seven in the last two years after Memphis' stunning 2011 Western Conference first-round playoff elimination of the then-top seeded Spurs. "They're one of the best teams in the NBA, and they made the plays at the end to win."
NOTES: The Grizzlies entered fourth in the Western Conference, just a few percentage points ahead of the fifth-place Clippers and a few behind the third-place Nuggets. ... Monday's win tied the Memphis' season franchise record for wins. The Grizzlies can break it on a three-game road trip starting on Wednesday at Portland. ... Monday's victory was also the 12th straight home win for Memphis, second longest in franchise history. ... Parker's 25 points was his 27th 20-point game of the season. ... The Grizzlies are 10-3 when Conley scores 20 or more points. ... The Spurs lost consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 17-18.