The first round of the NBA Playoffs have been captivating so far, and one former Ohio Stater is at the heart of that entertaining. Mike Conley is making up for the lack of production from the rest of his fellow former Buckeyes as Memphis and Oklahoma City are all square through four games. Hopefully the other Buckeyes involved in the playoffs can follow the point guard's lead and garner some attention.
Mike Conley - PG - Memphis Grizzlies
After sneaking into the playoffs and earning the seventh seed in the Western Conference, Memphis is giving Oklahoma City all they can handle through four games. The two teams met last year in the second round, but that matchup was far different from this year's as Russell Westbrook was missing a year ago with a knee injury he suffered in the first round.
In the five games series that Memphis won last year, Conley was very impressive, averaging 18 points per game, 6.8 assists per game, and 6.6 rebounds per game. Conley nearly had two triple-doubles, registering 26 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in Game 2, followed by 13 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds in the series clinching Game 5.
Memphis and Oklahoma City are giving basketball fans a classic series through four games, and one of the reasons for that is Conley is bettering his strong play from last year. Through four games, Conley has averaged 17.3 points per game to go along with nine assists per. Already in the series Conley has registered three double-doubles, with the first coming in the 100-86 loss in Game 1 with 16 points and 11 assists. The Thunder jumped out to a 25-point lead at one point, and while Memphis was able to cut the lead to four, they couldn't complete the comeback.
Starting with Game 2 the next three games have all gone to overtime, with Memphis taking two of the three. Game 2 saw another big performance from Conley, with the point guard scoring 19 points, handing out 12 assists, and grabbing seven rebounds. Conley did miss out on a chance to push the lead to three points late when he split a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left. Kendrick Perkins scored on a put-back as time expired to force the extra session. The Grizzlies were able to hold off the Oklahoma City charge in overtime, and earned a 111-105 victory.
Early on Thursday Conley was named the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy as the NBA's Sportsmanship Award winner. Along with the honor, the NBA will donate $10,000 to the charity of Conley's choice, which is St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital for research pertaining to sickle cell anemia.
While the award announcement came earlier Thursday, Conley was able to score his series-high 20 points in the 98-95 overtime win in Memphis. Oklahoma City used a 17-0 run to tie the score at 81 with just under a minute to go, but Conley scored five points in overtime to seal the win.
The Grizzlies had won 15 straight home games coming into Saturday night's Game 4 in Memphis, but they weren't able to extend that streak any further with a 92-89 loss in overtime. The loss was the first setback that Memphis suffered at FedEx Forum since they fell to Dallas on February 5th. Conley had 14 points and 10 assists, but he struggled from the field, shooting just 5-16 including 0-6 from three-point range.
While Conley has played dome steller defense and gotten his teammates involved on the offensive end throughout the series, his long range shooting is leaving a lot to be desired. Through four games Conley is just 2-20 from beyond the arc, including missing a late three-pointer which could've sent Saturday's game to double overtime. If Memphis can get a little more consistency from long range from Conley, they'll give Oklahoma City an even tougher test than they currently are.
Kosta Koufos - F/C - Memphis Grizzlies
While Mike Conley is stealing the headlines with his play so far in the series, the use of Koufos through four games has been sporadic. Koufos only played five minutes in Game 1, and didntvplay at all in Game 2.
The most productive game in series for the big man came in Game 3, when he played 17 minutes. Koufos hit three baskets to finish with six points in five rebounds in the overtime win. The substantial minutes didn't last long for Koufos though, as he was limited to just three minutes in Game 4.
With a front court of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph it is understandable why Koufos doesn't see much time on the floor, but his Game 3 performance shows that when needed he can be a serviceable player coming off the bench. The Grizzlies are hoping they don't need too much from Koufos because that would mean Gasol is either in foul trouble or ineffective, but it must be nice knowing they can get some solid play from him if needed.
Evan Turner - G/F - Indiana Pacers
The short time that Evan Turner has been a member of the Indiana Pacers has been rough with the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference slumping to the finish. Those issues got even worse when it was revealed that Turner and teammate Lance Stephenson were involved in the altercation on the eve of Indiana's Game 1 against Atlanta.
After the altercation Indiana has struggled in most of the series, splitting four games with the Hawks. Game 1 saw Turner go 4-6 from the field to finish with nine points, but it wasn't enough to push Indiana to victory, as they fell to Atlanta 101-93 last Saturday.
Games 2 & 3 were forgettable for Turner, with the former Buckeye only seeing a combined 19 minutes after he played 18 minutes in Game 1. In each of the games Turner only was able to contribute three points. Indiana looked like the best team in the Eastern Conference in Game 2 when they downed Atlanta 101-85, but in Game 3 they fell 98-85 on the road.
Game 4 saw a boom in Turner's minutes as he was given 21 minutes of floor time. The Villain made the most of it, score seven straight points early, and eventually finished the game with 11 points. The performance helped the Pacers to eek out a desperately needed 91-88 win to avoid falling in a 3-1 hole in the series.
While Turner has been inconsistent offensively, one thing he has been doing well is hitting from three-point range, making four of the six triples he has attempted so far. If Indiana can get more performances like Games 1 & 4 from Turner, they might start looking like the powerhouse team that many feared earlier in the season.
Greg Oden - C - Miami Heat
When Greg Oden signed with the Miami Heat it was thought that he would play a role for the two-time defending champions in the playoffs, but that hasn't been the case so far. As the Heat have cruised to a 3-0 series lead over Charlotte, Oden hasn't yet seen the court. Had Miami had any intentions of using Oden in the playoffs, you would have figured he would have seen the court a little bit in the early going.
Now that doesn't mean that we won't see Oden take the floor at all in the playoffs, but it is becoming increasingly unlikely. Game 4 will be telling for any plans the Heat might have for Oden, since they are looking at a sweep and possibly a long layoff while waiting for their second round opponent to be determined.