Northwest Notes: Conley, Gobert, Malone, Trail Blazers

Mike Conley turned in a vintage performance Saturday night in his first road playoff game at Memphis, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. The veteran point guard made it a memorable homecoming with 27 points, eight assists and six rebounds as the Jazz pulled out a Game 3 victory.

Conley spent 12 years with the Grizzlies and was a fan favorite before being traded to Utah in 2019. This first-round series has him battling with second-year guard Ja Morant, who has become the new face of the franchise.

“It’s amazing to be playing against a guy like Ja, first off,” Conley said. “Just seeing a guy that’s so talented, he’s a young superstar in the league, wearing the jersey that I’m so used to wearing. Getting the cheers from the crowd that I’m so used to hearing. It’s surreal. It’s like full circle. You never thought that it would be this way. I never did, at least. It’s like sometimes you live long enough to become the villain, and I’ve become that for the Memphis Grizzlies now.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rudy Gobert was thinking of Mark Eaton after Saturday’s win, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Eaton, a former Jazz center and shot-blocking specialist, died Friday at age 64. “I know that if he was here I would have got a text after the game saying, ‘Way to protect the paint, big guy,’” Gobert said.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone called out his team — and especially his starters — after a lopsided loss to Portland in Saturday’s Game 4, writes Royce Young of ESPN. With a chance to go up 3-1 in the series, Denver came out flat and never seriously challenged the Trail Blazers. The Nuggets’ starting unit was outscored 49-26 when it was on the floor and shot 30% from the field while Portland was making 65% of its shots. “Our starters were awful,” Malone said. “I thought we had some guys that were tentative, that looked a little scared, who played soft … we’re going to have to be a lot better going home.” He later added, “I can’t believe we’re actually talking about playing hard in a playoff game. That should be a given.”
  • With the Trail Blazers’ season hanging in the balance, Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell both came into Saturday’s game with something to prove, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Nurkic was upset over disparaging comments about his defense, while Powell wanted to show he could be the difference maker Portland expected when it acquired him at the trade deadline.
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