Timberwolves guard Mike Conley made Sunday night's first shot, a three-pointer in the first 18 seconds just as his coach had drawn it up. From there, his team never trailed during a 119-97 victory at Memphis.
The Wolves led 15-3 after three minutes and by 26 points after halftime as Conley came back to the FedExForum, where he played his first 12 NBA seasons. He made six threes, scored 18 points and had 10 assists, delivering a winning performance just as he did there in the old days.
Anthony Edwards scored 24 points as the Wolves had five players — four starters — score in double figures. Edwards did so despite being labeled as questionable to play before the game because of back spasms.
But it was Conley who provided the pulse and a veteran's steady hand on a night when both Conley and Wolves coach Chris Finch wanted him more involved than the last two games, when he took 12 shots and made three threes against Sacramento and Philadelphia.
On Sunday, he took 11 shots from the field, including the six made threes, against a Memphis team missing suspended star Ja Morant and several injured players.
"Last game, I wasn't aggressive. I had opportunities that I missed out on," Conley told reporters afterward. "I can tell from the beginning of the game, the first couple plays he designed specifically for me. I think we're a better team when I'm aggressive and put my imprint on the game."
Finch called Conley's involvement in the offense a "point of emphasis" for a guy who had taken five threes his last two games.
"That's not good enough," Finch said in a postgame news conference. "I wanted to get him going and feature him right away."
Turns out Conley was featured fairly equally between shooting for himself and creating for others, as those 10 assists attest.
"That's the thing about me," Conley said. "You can draw up a play, but that doesn't mean I'm going to shoot it. But I am going to make a play, make the right read. It made the game a lot easier."
He did it back in a place that still feels like home.
"It's always like the first time when I come back here," Conley said. "These fans basically raised me. This city raised me. There's so many great memories. Every time I come back, I'm flooded with a whole new set of them. I'm truthfully thankful and grateful to still play in front of them."
Both the six three-pointers and 10 assists were Conley's season highs. It was the seventh occasion in Wolves history of a player having six threes and 10 assists in a game. The others: D'Angelo Russell (twice), Mo Williams, Kevin Love, Chauncey Billups and Stephon Marbury.
At 36 years and 46 days, he became the second-oldest player to do that. The oldest is Jason Kidd, who did it on his 37th birthday in 2010.
Finch credited his bench and the team's defense as well for a bounce-back victory after Friday's 124-111 home loss to Sacramento.
On Sunday, the Wolves shot 53%, outscored Memphis 29-17 in the second quarter and held the Grizzlies to 24% shooting in that quarter.
Starter Nickeil Alexander-Walker successfully chased Grizzlies scorer Desmond Bane everywhere Bane went. The Memphis guard finished with 13 points on 5-for-16 shooting and a flagrant foul 1 for an encounter with the Wolves' Naz Reid. Fellow Grizzlies star Jaren Jackson Jr. didn't fare much better. He went 4-for-14 and scored 18 points.
Meanwhile, Edwards played on even though Finch thought it was more unlikely he would as the day went on. He should know better.
"I don't like sitting on the sideline and having my teammates looking at me," Edwards said. "I don't want them to think I'm not. I'm ready to play every night."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.