Looking like goners one game and winners the next.
That practically summed up the first two Western Conference semis games for the Memphis Grizzlies and you can point the finger on one man: Mike Conley, Jr.
On a night when Stephen Curry was presented with the NBA’s MVP trophy in front of a raucous Oracle Arena crowd, Conley made his triumphant return and stole the show in a 97-90 Game 2 win while handing the Golden State Warriors their first home loss since Jan. 27.
What made the whole spectacle much more amazing is that the diminutive guard looked in no condition to play a week following facial surgery.
Back at the helm, Conley didn’t display any fear of attacking the teeth of a vicious Warriors defense. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (3-of-6 from three), while dishing out three assists, and set the tone from the jump by scoring nine of Memphis’ first 14 points.
“I thought Mike Conley had tremendous heart to come out and give us what he had,” head coach Dave Joerger told reporters following the win, according to NBA TV on Twitter.
More than his encouraging stat line, Conley led with a quiet confidence, which Memphis desperately missed when it was blown out, 101-86, in Game 1 and in a 99-92 Game 4 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers during the Western Conference quarterfinals.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 6, 2015
The two teams were stylistic opposites with Golden State preferring to end the war with machine guns blazing while Memphis looking to manhandle opponents. Game 1 proved to be difficult for the Grizzlies to deny that kind of pace from the Warriors but with Conley back orchestrating, it was a totally different team that took the court.
Whether that meant Conley was lofting floaters over the outstretched arms of Golden State defenders in the pick-and-roll or simply maintaining the metronomic integrity of the team’s offensive flow, a semblance of normalcy was restored.
The result? A Game 2 win, a homecourt advantage for Memphis, and a reminder that these sweet-shooting folks are mortals after all.
This series is just getting interesting.