MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies were so busy finishing off their first-round series they haven’t considered the impact of playing the Golden State Warriors without Mike Conley.
Now that the Grizzlies have ousted Portland 4-1 in the first round with a 99-93 win on Wednesday night, they can focus on if they will be preparing for the NBA’s best team in the Western Conference semifinals with or without their starting point guard.
“If he can’t go, I mean we’re going to figure out a way like we always do, just like we did tonight,” center Marc Gasol said after the Grizzlies eliminated Portland.
Conley missed the Grizzlies’ final two games of the Portland series after having surgery Monday to repair broken bones in his face. He was in the arena Wednesday night and by the bench when the game ended.
The Grizzlies replaced Conley the past two games by starting Nick Calathes and having Beno Udrih come off the bench. But they couldn’t replace both his 16 points per game against Portland and his defensive skills. Trying to defend Damian Lillard and all of Portland’s 3-point shooters gave the Memphis coaches fits.
“It was definitely on-the-fly adjustments,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.
The Grizzlies have not updated Conley’s status, forced to wait until the swelling subsides. Avoiding a trip back to Portland for a sixth game Friday night means two more days of rest at home and not having to pack for a full week on the West Coast with Game 1 at Golden State on Sunday.
Grizzlies guard Vince Carter, who turned 38 in January, said the older guys appreciate the rest more than anybody.
“We wanted to go out and get it done now for the future,” Carter said. “We wanted to get the job done now, get some days of rest to get ready for the next tough series. This is just a warmup for the next one and then the next one and the next one. Our goal is to finish out the season on top, so we had to get by this one first.”
Memphis swept Portland during the regular season and had the home-court advantage in the first-round series with a better record than the Trail Blazers.
The Warriors have home-court throughout the playoffs after winning a franchise-record 67 games. They are paced by MVP candidate Stephen Curry and the league’s top-ranked defense. The Warriors also have the advantage of seven days between games after sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans.
It’s the Warriors’ longest layoff since the All-Star break in mid-February, though Golden State is as healthy as any team can hope this time of year. Reserve forward David Lee recently returned to practice after a strained lower back that kept him out of the first round, while Draymond Green has said his sore left ankle is fine.
The Warriors went 2-1 against the Grizzlies this season, winning once at home and once on the road. Their only loss in the season series came without center and defensive stopper Andrew Bogut. A sprained right foot kept Conley out of the last game April 13 at Golden State, a 111-107 win by the Warriors.
“They’re built to win a championship. They’re probably the most complete team that we faced, them and San Antonio,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “I had to watch games that they lost just to see what teams did against them because you just don’t see it when they’re winning games. You’re like, ‘Where’s the weakness?’ So to me, they just don’t have many weaknesses, if any.”
The Grizzlies know they face a tough task. But this is a squad with plenty of postseason experience with Gasol, Randolph, Conley — if he returns — and Tony Allen now in their fifth straight playoffs. This is their second Western semifinals in three seasons as they try to back to the conference finals as they did in 2013.
Gasol said Calathes will have to do his job and be aggressive on the ball until Conley returns.
“They are really talented players who can shoot it from anywhere,” Gasol said of the Warriors. “Once they cross half-court, any shot is a good shot for them. So, you’ve got to do a good job on defense … You can’t just start gambling and making your own defense once they break you down, because then you’re done.”
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon, and freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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