MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
Conley insists he’s just trying to match up against Paul and do the best he can.
“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.
Conley has performed well enough in this series that the Clippers have made defensive adjustments trying to corral the 6-foot-1 guard.
“I’ve got to get used to them playing that way, certain ways and being schemed because I haven’t had to deal with that in my career having so many guys on our team to scheme against,” Conley said. “It’s something new for me, so hopefully I’ll adjust.”
Not that Conley is complaining. He was the No. 4 overall draft selection out of Ohio State in 2007, and the Grizzlies rewarded him with a five-year, $40 million extension in November 2010.
“It’s good to have a little bit of respect around here, but I’m just trying to get better as the days go on,” Conley said.
Conley is a speedy guard, and his ability to dart through the lane for easy layups or quick passes to Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol have hurt the Clippers. Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro said they have to be able to control Conley a little bit.