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The Triple Team: Mike Conley carries Jazz in 4th; Jazz tell their stories on what happened in emergency plane incident

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) drives past Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant with help from center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 111-107 win over the Memphis Grizzlies from Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Without Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley handles 4th quarter load

With Donovan Mitchell sitting out for the game, the Jazz came down the stretch needing someone else to step up into the spotlight. And while it was predictable that it was Mike Conley who did — he did this for years in this very arena — we should recognize just how good he was in doing so.

Conley shot 5-5 in the fourth quarter for 13 points, and added three assists (two for threes, one for a two) in his nine fourth quarter minutes, picking up a steal but also two turnovers in his time in charge. He wasn’t quite as ball-dominant as Mitchell was, but the results certainly speak for themselves: Conley’s play pushed the Jazz to a win.

In particular, Conley was repeatedly able to get into the paint and knock down the mid-range floater or jumper. This was the Jazz’s last basket of the game, and it was a big one: without it, they wouldn’t have been able to maintain their lead safely in the game’s final minute.

I also want to point out his defensive contribution for the record, even though it certainly doesn’t show up in the box score. Yes, Morant had 36 points on 18 shots. And yet, I thought Conley defended him pretty well anyway, and made just some of the toughest shots imaginable to get to that scoring total. This is a terrific strip from Conley early, for example.

I didn’t realize this until the Grizzlies broadcast pointed it out, but Conley’s 1.3 steals per game qualifies him for 17th on the steals per game leaderboard in the NBA. He had four tonight.

2. Bojan Bogdanovic, post-up passer

In general, post-ups aren’t very efficient plays. That’s why the NBA has gone away from posting up players to such a huge extent: when defenses are able to shove in defense on the block, help from all angles to get blocks and steals, and most of the time, the shot taken is contested, it all adds up to be less effective than most other ways of scoring.

Bojan Bogdanovic has been the Jazz’s only exception, though: Quin Snyder still lets him operate on the block, especially if the other team is trying to guard him with a smaller player. Is this good offense?

Well, if we just look at the scoring aspect, not really. According to Synergy Sports, Bogdanovic is averaging 0.94 points per possession on his post-up plays when he takes it himself. He’s even shooting 48% on those opportunities, but they’re always twos, and he turns it over more than he gets fouled in those situations.

But when you add in the passes, when the defense commits and Bogdanovic is able to find the open man — then it becomes really effective. Those possessions score 1.76 points on average so far this season, much better.

We got two examples of that tonight. Bogdanovic goes to work in the post, sees the defense either attacking him or on their way to double him, and finds the open shooter for an easy look.

Those are really nice passes! Bogdanovic has done a good job at that this season.

Now, what’s going to be interesting is if a playoff opponent, having scouted the Jazz diligently, is going to bother sending that second man at Bogdanovic given the stats involved. You’d think probably not, but in some instances where they’re trying to hide a smaller defender on him, or just get cross-matched in transition defense, teams will probably end up doubling him — to their own detriment.

3. The plane incident

Yesterday, the Jazz’s plane was involved in a bird strike incident that forced an emergency landing back at Salt Lake City airport. Bird strikes are relatively common — over 13,000 happen every year in the United States — but they rarely cause this much damage. According to the FAA, only 15% cause any damage, and outright engine fire and failure, like the Jazz experienced, is pretty rare.

We asked Conley and Jordan Clarkson about their experience aboard the plane yesterday. Rather than summarize, I figured it’d be best to include the whole story of what they said occurred.

Jordan Clarkson:

So, where I sit on the plane is where I could see the engine and everything. I happened to be being a bad kid and kind of getting up and grabbing something out of my bag while we were taking off. And I just remember walking back to my seat and as I got to my seat, I just hear a loud bang. Me and Mike looked at each other and he was like, oh, ‘that was the birds!’ I guess, Mike, had seen the birds passing through the window and then was seeing it as it was happening. So all I heard was a bang. And then I turned to look out the window and saw the whole engine shaking and everything.

And then you see everybody in the back kind of like reacting to what’s going on. And a lot of people in the back that were sitting like behind the engine, they had seen a burst of flames. So immediately, they’re probably thinking the plane is fully caught on fire. And I see everybody kind of reacting towards that. And just recalling — that whole situation was pretty crazy. The whole plane just started shaking.

It’s definitely an experience that I’m happy to be able to tell, because, like I said, a lot of us really came to like a point, at least 30 seconds in that flight, everybody came to the point where it was like — this might be over for us. And, you know, it’s sad to say that. And I don’t play with death, or any anything like that.

What happened when the pilots told you a few minutes later that you’d be turning around and going back to the airport?

Yeah, that was probably the most calming part, the flight attendants and the pilots were very calm when they got on the intercom basically telling us what happened, saying we lost the engine, we’re going to be able to land somewhere, and they were saying they were going to turn the plane around.

So that definitely was a comforting thing, but we were all looking out the window like, ‘man just... just land anywhere. We don’t care. We can check everything else later, once we get on the ground. Just please just put this plane on the ground and just let us live and get past this.’

So yeah, it was definitely a calming kind of thing once the pilot got on there, he was super calm and, you know, let us know what was going on. And, we got down to the ground, shout out to him for landing, getting us back safe, all of that.

Mike Conley:

Well, yeah, well, for the group of us, I think it was me, JC, Joe, Miye, Favs — we’re all kind of right there in between both wings of the plane and all of a sudden it felt like there was an explosion. Literally that’s what it sounded like for most people on the plane, like we hit something big and the plane immediately started to bounce and then just started tilting to the left.

People in the back of the plane said they saw flames. And people in the front obviously didn’t know what was going on. And immediately the altitude started to drop a little bit and we started looking down and wondering what just happened. And, nobody knows, everybody’s just quiet. You know, we’re just in shock. And it took the pilots probably five to ten minutes, probably about ten minutes to go through everything, go through their checks and get back to us and let us know what was going on, because it was obvious that something was really wrong with the plane. It felt like the plane was, like, breaking apart in midair. So for us, for five, ten minutes it felt like just just complete helplessness. So, you know, we’re thankful it wasn’t as serious as it could have been, but it was scary.

For a good 10, 15 minutes, I think all of us on that flight were questioning if we were going to be here today. So that was how serious it was for us. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know that guys were trying to text family and just in case. It was that kind of situation. And we’re just thrilled and thankful for the pilots and the staff and what they’re able to do to get us back home safely.

And I think a lot of us were shook up. Obviously, you don’t just go through something like that and just get back on a plane and head to go play a game again. So it put perspective on life for all of us and I say we’re just all thankful to be here and doing what we love to do.

Because those were pretty scary stories, here’s a fun fact to end the Triple Team: the remains of a bird that have struck an airplane is called “snarge” — a word which has disputed origins, but the most believable origin I found was some unknown ornithologist made it by compounding the words “snot” and “garbage.”

After a bird strike, scientists examine the snarge to find out what kind of bird struck the airplane, so they can improve mitigation efforts to prevent birds from being in planes’ paths as frequently. I thought that was pretty neat.

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