GASOL HAS EDGE IN CONLEY REUNION
Raptors nabbed franchise-record lead in first half
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley played 718 regular season or playoff games together as teammates with the Memphis Grizzlies.
On Sunday night, they were opponents for the first time and it was a game neither will likely ever forget. Not just because it still feels a bit odd for either of them to see each other in different uniforms, but also because of how one-sided the contest was.
Toronto rolled past the Utah Jazz 130-110, with Pascal Siakam scoring 35 points, and Fred Vanvleet adding 21 and 11 assists. Conley had 20 for the visitors while Gasol scored 11, all in the first part of the opening quarter.
The Raptors led by 40 — yes, 40 — points at the half, a franchise record and a franchise-worst for the visiting Jazz. Siakam, coming off of his worst game of the season, had 19 in the first quarter alone, Gasol had 11. Toronto moved the ball beautifully and went on a 23-2 run early, while the Jazz had all kinds of trouble putting the ball in the basket.
The Raptors started 10-for-16 from three. Utah opened 3-for-17. Utah had three assists through 14 minutes, the Raptors had 19. It was that kind of domination for a half, and with Gasol being uncharacteristically assertive.
“I knew he was going to do that somehow,” Conley said afterward.
The two teams basically switched places, Freaky Friday style, in the third quarter. The Jazz put up a franchise-best 49 points in the frame, making 18 baskets after sinking only 13 through two quarters, and shooting a blistering 72 per cent from the floor, including 8-for10 from behind the arc. Conley shot 5-for-5 in the third for 13 points and Donovan Mitchell added 11.
The Jazz shaved 19 points off of the deficit all in all and continued to claw away in the fourth, but Siakam and Vanvleet were great again in the fourth and the Raptors held off the charge as Utah eventually waved a white flag with another game coming to end this road trip on Monday.
Some coaches would have harped on the letdown in the third, but the Raptors’ Nick Nurse declined to do that.
“I don’t know, I don’t want to really talk about that third quarter if that’s all right? I’m happy that we get a 20-point win against a quality team like that,” he said.
Toronto improved to 9-0 at home, tied for best in the NBA with Philadelphia.
TEMPORARY RAPTORS FAN
Not surprisingly, Conley was cheering for Gasol and the Raptors during the playoffs.
“Man, I watched every game and was rooting and hoping and praying, then they brought it home, so it was pretty cool,” Conley said when asked whether he became a Raptors fan for a bit.
Gasol Facetimed with Conley after winning the title, leading to some mixed emotions.
“First (reaction) was pure happiness, and then I was thinking in my head like, ‘Wow, he’s got champagne all in his beard and I’m sitting at home,’ ” Conley recalled.
He also greatly enjoyed Gasol’s post-championship hijinks at the team’s victory parade. Gasol guzzled an entire bottle of wine on a float.
“I haven’t seen that Marc in a long time. And that was fun to
see,” Conley said with a laugh.
TALKING THROUGH IT
As their time in Memphis wound down after so many years of success, both Gasol and Conley weren’t sure they wanted to leave.
“It was kind of the same thing. I think we both wanted to stay there,” Gasol said. “At the end of the day, we’re both happy that we moved on and both got traded. It was the same situation for both. I remember, we had a meeting with management there. And they presented, not kind of that they wanted to trade us, but, ‘OK, what do you want to do?’ We were like, ‘We can fix it. Let’s go. We’re not there far. Blah, blah, blah, blah.’ They traded both of us,” Gasol said with a smile.
Gasol was moved to Toronto at the trade deadline, but Conley didn’t head to Utah until the off-season.
Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert (27) drives to the basket against the Toronto Raptors’ Marc Gasol (33) at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto defeated Utah 130-110.