GAME 3 SHOOT-AROUND REPORT: CONLEY FIRST MET PAUL ON WAKE FOREST VISIT
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley almost followed in Chris Paul’s college footsteps.
It was the spring of 2005 and Conley along with highly touted high school teammate Greg Oden made a recruiting stop at Wake Forest where they were hosted by Paul, a sophomore star and soon-to-be fourth overall pick in the draft.
“I was all but sold, and then my last visit was to Ohio State so that’s where I ended up going,” Conley said about his visit to the Winston-Salem campus. “I had a good time.”
Conley, who scored a playoff career high 28 points in Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ first-round series with the Clippers, said at shoot-around prior to Thursday’s Game 3 that Paul is someone that he has long admired as a player and a person.
The recruiting visit was the first time Conley had met Paul and the two spent the day getting to know each other.
“I get to sit down with him,” Conley said. “Got to eat, got to spend the day, go to the gym, workout and do different things like that. I got to see what kind of person he was. Obviously, I was in high school I was a fan and I looked up to him and tried to take some of the stuff from his game and put into mine.”
Through two games this year and a seven-game series in 2012, Conley has witnessed Paul’s brilliance at the position first-hand. Paul helped the Clippers to their first-ever Game 7 victory over Conley’s Grizzlies last season and has averaged 23.5 points and eight assists on 57.1% shooting in leading the Clippers to a 2-0 series lead entering Thursday.
“He’s getting better and better,” Paul said of Conley. “I try to contain him as much as possible but Mike is one of those guys that year-in-and-year out keeps getting better and he’s a handful.”
Entering the series, the Grizzlies talked about limiting the Clippers’ transition game. Through two games, the Clippers have scored just 23 fast-break points and 16 points off turnovers (fewest among the 16 playoff teams).
However, most of the numbers have come in bursts that were sustained long enough to alter the game. That’s something Memphis is intent on trying to eliminate.
“I think we’ve done okay,” Conley said at shoot-around Thursday. “They’ve hit spurts where they just kill us. We’ll have long stretches where we play well and they’ll come in a spurt and just go at us really quickly. We’ve got to find a way to cut down on those spurts.”
According to Conley, that happens by playing effective offense and further limiting open court opportunities for the Clippers.
“They’re a very good transition team and a very good offensive rebounding team,” he said. “In order for us to get stops, we have to rebound. On the offensive end, our defense kind of dictates what we do on the offensive end. If we’re scoring buckets and getting easy layups and getting to the free throw line, then the transition opportunities [for the Clippers] aren’t there.”