Tony Parker pays respect to ‘underrated’ opposite number

Point duel: TP9 v Conley

Point duel: TP9 v Conley

Tony Parker claims San Antonio need to be wary of Mike Conley if they are to overcome the challenge of Memphis ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.

Speaking after practice, Parker said: “(Conley) is a very underrated player and for me is in the top 10 for best point guards in the league!”

“He makes it happen for them, he’s a great shooter, has great penetration and you have to respect him.”

The Memphis point guard led his side to a 4-2 series victory over the number 1 seeded Oklahoma in the conference semi-finals, averaging 18.0 ppg; 6.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists.

Conley has been with the Grizzlies since 2007 and recorded his best points total/average in the regular season whilst making 100+ 3-pointers in a season for the first time having started in all 80 of his appearances. His next challenge comes in the form of one of the most experienced guards in the league.

Parker was the finals MVP in 2007 which was the last time San Antonio won the NBA Championship and the French international is also wary of the inside threat of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

“Obviously, we have to stop Gasol and Randolph but Mike Conley is a huge part of what they do. We need a lot of help on defence to stop them inside and we need to make sure we control the ball to limit turnovers,” the 31 year-old added.

The season head-to-head was tied at 2-2 with Parker scoring 30 points on two occasions while two games went to overtime as both teams were victorious at home. The Spurs were defeated 4-2 by the Grizzlies two years ago and also blew home court advantage in the conference finals against OKC last year, something they will want to avoid.

“It’s been a motivation for us since training camp and we have home court advantage again against a good team so we need to make the most of the opportunity,” said Parker.

Memphis have never reached the NBA Finals having only been in the league since 1995 while San Antonio have won all 4 of their NBA Championships since 1999. Parker v Conley will definitely be a key match-up as will the inside battle between the duo of Z-Bo & Gasol up against Tim Duncan and the help defence. Coach Gregg Popovich will also be hoping for further impact from Manu Ginobili off the bench.

 

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NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat 4-1 Chicago Bulls

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

In a fiery series, a depleted Chicago Bulls side went down fighting as Miami Heat booked a place in the Conference Finals for the 3rd straight year. The defending champions swept the Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 in the first round while Tom Thibodeau’s  battling Bulls edged past Brooklyn Nets 4-3 after a thrilling series which included a triple overtime game 3.

GAME 1: Chicago 93-86 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Chicago claimed Game 1 on the road after a strong finish helped secure the victory. The visitors outscored Miami 35-24 in the final quarter and closed out the game with the last 10 points despite being without Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. In their absence, Nate Robinson (27p/9a) continued his fine play-off form while Jimmy Butler (21p/14r) and Joakim Noah (13p/11r) both added valuable double-doubles. LeBron James proved why he won his fourth MVP award with an impressive 24-8-7 performance but was only joined in double figures by Dwyane Wade, who had 14. The teams were tied at 37 at the half before Miami edged ahead at the end of the third on a Shane Battier three. A tense fourth ensued and the home side were leading 86-83 with 2:22 remaining before they were kept scoreless for the rest of the game as Marco Belinelli’s triple sparked a 10-0 close for the win with Robinson adding the final seven points.

Chicago Bulls lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Chicago 78-115 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Everybody expected a response from the reigning champions and Erik Spoelstra’s side duly delivered with a dominant blow-out in a physical encounter. It was an historic post-season performance from Miami as they coasted to their largest margin of victory in a play-off game. Ray Allen led the way for the Heat with 21 points off the bench including a perfect 10-10 from the line. Norris Cole was another strong performer off the bench making 4-4 from 3-point range for 18 points as the hosts had four other players in double-figures as they shot 60% from the field. A total of nine technicals were dished out but Miami were not affected by the physical intensity. James scored all of his 19 points in the first half before turning provider in the second as Miami began to run riot. A run of 11 unanswered points helped them break further clear in the third before a 19-2 start to the fourth made it 104-68- an incredible lead of 46. Both teams emptied their bench at the end for a calm finish to a frosty tussle.

Series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: Miami 104-94 Chicago @ United Centre

Miami then regained home advantage with a win on the road in a game marred by Nazr Mohammed’s ejection for pushing over the league MVP. LeBron had a 25-8-7 game while Chris Bosh had a huge game performance  with 20 points combined with a career play-off high 19 rebounds. All of Chicago‘s starters posted scores in double figures whilst clocking hefty minutes and the visitors managed to stay with their opponents for the majority of the game. The teams headed into the final quarter tied at 70 but Bosh‘s triple gave Miami a lead they would not relinquish with LeBron and Cole also netting late scores from beyond the arc to keep the Bulls at bay before closing out the game at the free throw line.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: Miami 88-65 Chicago @ United Centre

Chicago squandered the chance to level the series after their worst play-off performance in their franchise history. Miami opened up a double-digit advantage at half-time with James and Bosh combining for 27 points in a 44-33 half. The third quarter saw Miami power on to lead 61-42 on a Cole triple at the buzzer after restricting the Bulls to a nine point quarter. There was no way back for the visitors as they fell to their third straight loss and on the brink of elimination. LeBron led the way with 27-7-8 while Bosh was the only other player in double figures as the scoring was spread out across the roster. Chicago shot a lowly 25% from the field with Robinson going 0-12 while Noah went 1-6 and Carlos Boozer was 3-14.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 3-1.

GAME 5: Chicago 91-94 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

The close-out game was not as straight forward as expected despite the early indications with Miami making their first seven shots in a 22-4 start. As has been the Chicago way this season, the Bulls battled back and took the lead at 38-36 on a Butler three midway through the second. They maintained the advantage at the half as Robinson sunk a late triple to make it 53-47 with Boozer leading the charge with 19 points. ‘Rip’ Hamilton’s 3-pointer made it a 10 point game in the third before the hosts narrowly reduced the deficit to trail 77-69 after 3Q. Battier scored 8 points early on in the fourth to help Miami regain the lead and there was to be no way back for the Bulls as they were finally down and out. Boozer finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds while LeBron (23-7-8) flirted with a triple-double yet again and Wade added 18 points as he continues to battle with a knee injury. A great effort from Chicago without D Rose, Deng and Hinrich for the entire series as a healthy Miami prove too much in their quest for a third NBA Championship.

Miami won the best-of-7-series 4-1.

                                    Top 5 Players:

  1. LeBron James- 23.6 ppg; 7.0 rpg; 7.8 apg
  2. Jimmy Butler- 15.6 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 44.2 mpg
  3. Chris Bosh- 13.6 ppg; 8.6 rpg; 50% 3PT
  4. Norris Cole- 11.0 ppg; 23.0 mpg; 81.8% 3PT
  5. Carlos Boozer- 15.0 ppg; 8.2 rpg