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Clippers' Chris Paul, Grizzlies' Mike Conley are both on point

The two floor leaders have raised their level of play in an NBA Western Conference playoff series that moves to Memphis for Game 3. Clippers lead, 2-0.

April 25, 2013|By Broderick Turner
  • Clippers point guard Chris Paul drives against the tight defense of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley during Game 1 of their playoff series.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul drives against the tight defense of Grizzlies… (Harry How / Getty Images )

They are the two shortest players on the court, yet 6-foot Chris Paul and 6-1 Mike Conley have perhaps the biggest impact there.

They are the point guards who direct and make the all-important decisions for their teams, Paul operating for the Clippers and Conley running the show for the Memphis Grizzlies.

And in the first two NBA Western Conference playoff games between the teams, the Paul-Conley matchup has been intriguing to watch.

Paul's steely play has helped the Clippers open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Conley's performance in Game 2 probably has given the Grizzlies hope in a series that shifts to Memphis for Game 3 on Thursday night.

"Obviously, Mike is playing against the best point guard in the game right now in Chris," the Clippers' Chauncey Billups said. "But he's not backing down and, of course, neither is Chris. So they both will be going after it."

To no one's surprise, Paul has raised his level of play in the playoffs.

He's averaging 23.5 points on 57.1% shooting in the first two games, 8.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 34.5 minutes per game.

During the regular season, Paul averaged 16.9 points on 48.1% shooting, 9.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and a league-best 2.41 steals.

A measure of his greatness was his performance in Game 2, when Paul scored the Clippers' final eight points, including his game-winner with 0.1 of a second left.

"Let's be honest. Chris has been one of the best players in the NBA all season," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Conley was equally effective, giving the Clippers all sorts of problems in Game 2. He had 28 points, nine assists, three rebounds and two steals.

"We have to do a better job against him," Del Negro said. "He had way too many layups. But he's very quick, and if you're not loading up on him and paying attention to him, he'll hurt you."

Conley's ability to affect the game during the crucial moments was impressive.

He had 10 points, two assists and two rebounds in the fourth quarter.

He had five points and two assists in the final 4 minutes 10 seconds of the game. One of those assists was on the Marc Gasol dunk that tied the score at 91-91 with 13.9 seconds left.

"Mike can play," Paul said. "There are not too many point guards in our league that can't play. It's the best position in the league.

"I have a lot of respect for Mike. Like I've said, I knew him in high school and I think it's more about him as a person. He ain't got to make another basket and I still accept him."

Paul is an All-Star and a most-valuable-player candidate.

Conley, on the other hand, seems to go unnoticed for his skill set. But he has improved his play in the playoffs.

He is averaging 20 points on 48.3% shooting and 7.0 assists in 36 minutes in the first two games.

During the regular season, he averaged a career-high 14.6 points on 44.0% shooting, 6.1 assists and 2.18 steals per game, third-best in the NBA.

"Mike Conley is very, very underrated," Billups said. "He's very crafty. He has every shot in the book, pretty much. He can shoot the three. He can shoot the pull-up. He's got the floaters. He's very, very quick. He's smart on the pick-and-rolls. And he's a good defender. He doesn't get a lot of credit for that."

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