Mike Conley’s 61 Playoff Game Experience Will Help Utah Jazz When Playoffs Begin

Conley has appeared in 61 playoff games and played in three seven-game series, most with the Memphis Grizzlies

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz goalie Mike Conley (10) throws a pass, as Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) defends him, in an NBA action between Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls, at Vivint Arena, Friday, April 2, 2021.

The majority of Utah Jazz’s roster have some sort of playoff experience. And most of the team’s key players – including Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles – have been in the previous four playoffs.

But there is no jazz player in the 2020-21 iteration of the team more post-seasoned than Mike Conley.

In his career, Conley played 61 playoff games. He played in three seven-game series. In 2011, he was part of the No.8 Memphis Grizzlies squad that knocked out the seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

So when the Jazz start their playoff series, they will be anchored by a player who has seen almost every possible scenario.

“His experience in these games, in the big playoff games – especially in the deep races – is something that I find invaluable,” said coach Quin Snyder. “His leadership all season has been a big part of what we’ve done as a group and I think that continues to happen. In this context, it is all the more important that it comes from the point of view of experience.

Conley missed several games during the regular season due to strain in his right hamstrings. But in his absence, his leadership shone again. Forward Joe Ingles said Conley communicates with him and Trent Forrest regularly during games.

“He will come in downtime and tell us what he sees or feels,” said Ingles. “He’s usually right 99.9% of the time.”

So when the “second season” of the NBA begins, Ingles has high expectations of the same from Conley from a leadership standpoint.

“I have no doubt that his leadership will be the same as it always has been,” said Ingles. “He’s still vocal. He always helps us. So I think his leadership will be transparent.

[Read more: Complete Utah Jazz playoff coverage]

Most of Conley’s playoff experience comes from his 12 seasons with the Grizzlies. These “Grit and Grind” teams have qualified for the playoffs five consecutive years – from 2011 to 2015. The 2013 team made the Western Conference final as the fifth seed in the West.

(Brandon Dill | AP) Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) shoots between San Antonio Spurs goalie Tony Parker, left, and forward David Lee (10) during the first half of Game 4 in a playoff series NBA basketball first round tournament Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Through all of those high-pressure games, Conley has learned some valuable lessons, especially one where a team finishes at the end of the regular season is largely irrelevant.

“It doesn’t matter who you seed you are – you have to be able to refocus and re-lock yourself in, and take it team by team, game by game,” Conley said. “Because there’s no promise that you’ll make it to the next round, no matter how well you perform in the regular season or how successful you’ve had up to this point.”

Conley is enjoying his best statistical season as a Jazzman so far. He averages 16.4 points, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He also shoots almost 41% from the 3-point line.

In last year’s playoffs in the Orlando Bubble, Conley was inches away from making a winning shot in Game 7 of the first round against the Denver Nuggets, who advanced to the conference finals. In the final seconds, he called the ball in transition – an indication that he wants the ball in big moments.

For the Jazz to reach their goal of an NBA championship this season, they’ll have to go through the Nuggets, LA Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers – to name a few. These teams have renowned players and multiple champions.

So it helps that Jazz has someone in Conley who can be a calming voice on the court, on the sidelines and in the locker room.

“It’s a whole new season once the playoffs start, and we have to think about it like that, get our swagger back and put our motivations in the right place and hit our goals where they need to be so we’re good to go. for this stretching run, ”said Conley.


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