Conley is having a bit of a coming out party in this first-round series, scoring a postseason-best 28 points in Game 2, a performance he followed by handing out 10 assists with three steals and no turnovers, which hadn’t been done in the NBA playoffs since John Stockton in 2001.
He topped that in Game 4, setting a Grizzlies’ postseason record Saturday with 13 assists, 15 points and two turnovers.
“The team goes as he goes,” Paul said. “I think that’s what their team realizes. When he plays well, they play well. They feed off his energy. I try to contain him as much as possible, but Mike is one of those guys year in and year out just keeps getting better, and he’s a handful.”
With his play the past two games, Conley became just the eighth player since the 1992 postseason to hand out at least 23 assists with no more than two turnovers over a two-game span in the same playoffs.
Rajon Rondo had 27 assists with two turnovers for Boston last year. Paul did it twice with New Orleans in 2008 with 23 assists and one followed by 28 assists and two turnovers. Jason Kidd had 25 assists and two turnovers for Phoenix in 2001, while Mark Jackson had 28 assists and two turnovers in 1998 with 24 assists and two in 1999. Muggsy Bogues had 23 assists and two turnovers for Charlotte in 1993 and Terry Porter had 25 and two turnovers for Portland in 1992 according to STATS.
“I have to match him … in order for us to win,” Conley said.
The six-year veteran has blossomed for the Grizzlies since Memphis traded away leading scorer Rudy Gay on Jan. 30 to Toronto. Since the All-Star break, Conley averaged 17.6 points in March and 17 points in April as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the final 17 games of the regular season. He also led the NBA with 174 steals this season, breaking his own team record by 30.
“He’s played well in the regular season,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said Sunday. “And I think after the first game the people coming out and biting him in the back again. But you just have to go out and play and compete.”
Conley has his teammates’ confidence.
“We expect Mike to make the right play pretty much every time,” center Marc Gasol said.