SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Conley never would have guessed this.
Last Sunday, moments after the Utah Jazz wrapped up their regular season, Conley was asked about the thought of playing Memphis in the first round. He gave a disbelieving smile at the simple thought — a thought that before then never really entered his mind.
"Man, if we ended up playing the Grizzlies that'd be actually kind of wild, I would have never thought I'd be on the other side, coming in to FedEx Forum as an opponent, in a playoff atmosphere; that never was a thought of mine," Conley said. "I mean it'd be weird, it'd be awesome."
That crazy thought is now a reality.
Memphis defeated Golden State 117-112 in overtime to claim the eighth seed and earn the right to play the top-seeded Jazz. The series will begin with Game 1 Sunday at Vivint Arena.
If you're thinking you may have seen this before, it's not your fault. The Jazz and Grizzlies got as close as you can get to playing a series in the regular season.
In March, the teams played each three times in the span of four games. The result? Jazz 3-0.
Here's a quick look at their season series:
In a surprise, Mike Conley won a late tip to thwart Ja Morant and the Grizzlies comeback attempt.
Donovan Mitchell had 35 points, six assists and five rebounds in the contest and the Jazz jumped out to a big 21-point lead in the first quarter before allowing the Grizzlies to get close at the end. Gobert had 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting; every one of those shots was within five feet of the hoop.
Morant had 32 points for the Grizzlies
Donovan Mitchell put up the best first half of his career, scoring 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go along with five assists in the first 24 minutes of the game. With that type of start, there wasn't a lot of work left to do in the second half as the Jazz rolled to an easy win.
Jordan Clarkson had 28 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and rebounds in the win. The Jazz limited Morant to just 12 points.
For the Jazz, the game took a backseat to the traumatizing experience the day before after the Jazz's plane was forced to make an emergency landing that kept Donovan Mitchell grounded in Salt Lake City.
Good thing the Jazz still had Conley.
Morant made impossible shot after impossible shot in the game; Memphis' old favorite son made all of it a moot point. Conley scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Jazz to the victory.
In the closing minutes, Conley hit one of his patented off-handed floaters, drilled a fadeaway midrange jumper and then hit two clutch free throws to secure the win, looking as comfortable as ever to be playing in Memphis — something that should come as an advantage for Utah in the playoffs.
Morant had 36 points and seven assists in the loss.
Utah vs. Memphis
- Game 1: Sunday at Utah, 7:30 p.m.
- Game 2: Wednesday at Utah, 8 p.m.
- Game 3: Saturday, May 29, at Memphis, 7:30 p.m.
- Game 4: Monday, May 31, at Memphis, 7:30 p.m.
- *Game 5: Wednesday, June 2, at Utah, TBA
- *Game 6: Friday, June 4, at Memphis, TBA
- *Game 7: Sunday, June 6, at Utah, TBA