Marc Gasol and Mike Conley played 718 regular season or playoff games together as teammates with the Memphis Grizzlies. On Sunday night in Toronto 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 won 130-110. Pascal Siakam had 35 points, Fred VanVleet added 21 and 11 assists. Conley had 20 for the visitors while Gasol had 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 Utah Jazz. Pascal 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 started 3-for-17. Utah had three assists through 14 minutes, the Raptors had 19. It was that kind of domination, for a half.
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% from the floor, including 8-for-10 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 Fred 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.
Toronto improved to 9-0 at home, tied for best in the NBA with Philadelphia. Miami (8-0) and Boston (7-0) are also undefeated at home.
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 Face-timed 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.
“You know, I started feeling sorry for myself for a second, but, no man, it was all happiness directly towards him because I know how special it was for him. We were talking about that thing all our career, having an experience like that for himself is amazing). Just happy for him,” Conley said.
He also greatly enjoyed Gasol’s post-championship hijinx 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. When told this a few minutes later, Gasol agreed, quipping, “I miss that guy.” He was talking about his younger self, but he just as easily could have been referring to his good friend Conley.
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. At which point he consulted with Gasol about the big change.
“Yeah, we talked a lot. I talked to him before the trade, just kind of getting an idea what it’s gonna be like and then afterwards he was excited for me and just wishing me well and looking forward to this moment to be able to play against each other, that kind of thing. It was nice to have a guy who just went through it to talk to,” Conley said.
“It still seems weird seeing him in a different jersey,” Conley said of Gasol. “I feel comfortable in my jersey now, but just seeing him in a Raptors jersey and about to play against him just doesn’t really compute yet until probably when we get out there. It’s new territory for us.” Gasol said it looked really weird to see Conley in a Utah uniform when he returned to Memphis earlier this year.
TRY TO STICK WITH IT
It was only a couple of games ago that the Raptors throttled the New York Knicks at home, so Sunday’s game didn’t feel all that odd. These Raptors have crushed several opponents. So, what do they try to focus on when games get out of hand?
“Just keep building. I think building on our habits,” VanVleet said.
“They’re gonna keep scrapping,” VanVleet said of the Knicks, but the same applies to most opponents. Very few teams are just going to pack it in once they get way down.
On Sunday Utah fought to cut the lead in half in the third quarter and tried to mount one final run in the fourth.