The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies engaged in a bare-knuckles inter-conference brawl at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on New Year's Eve afternoon with the Pacers left standing and celebrating one of their most impressive W's of the season.
The refs let things get physical early and to their credit didn't change course with the way they called the game through the final buzzer. That meant no one wandered into the paint with out taking a hit or three and battles for loose rebounds were straight scrums between the two defensive-minded teams.
The Pacers rallied to score 28 fourth-quarter points and beat the Grizzlies leaning on big plays from about everyone who played, really coming together as a team during crunch time. That togetherness played a big role and drew a stark contrast to how the Grizzlies handled things in the second half.
Memphis seemed to be in constant complain mode, whether they were bickering with one another or complaining to the refs about the constant contact. That team has tons of talent but appears highly volatile which didn't work out well down the stretch. I suddenly realized how plausible it was for Tony Allen to punch O.J. Mayo on a team flight last year.
The tough night at the Fieldhouse drove Rudy Gay nuts as well. Paul George shadowed his every move and then the physical play seemed to wear him down both mentally and physically. Gay finished the game making just three of 17 shots with while PG not only turned in an epic defensive effort but also added 21 points, five assists and six rebounds.
Other notes on the game:
- D.J. Augustin started in place of George Hill at point guard. Hill tried to give his injured thigh a go but couldn't answer the bell after doing more harm in Atlanta. That also put Ben Hansbrough back in the rotation and both point guards came up with big plays to help the Pacers while combining for only two turnovers. Hansbrough hit a pair of threes to keep the Pacers rolling and Augustin simply had his best game of the year.
- Augustin scored 17 points with six assists but he stood tall when the Pacers needed him most. With two minutes left, Augustin drilled a three-pointer to push the Pacers in front by six points and give everyone in the building the belief that the Pacers could hang on and win. Then when the Pacers needed to close out the win at the free throw line, Augustin made four in a row to keep the Grizz chasing.
- It was real nice to see the Pacers make their free throws down the stretch to close out the W. Lance Stephenson splashed the final two with five seconds left to put the win on ice.
- As usual, David West went into beast mode in the fourth quarter after doing battle with Zach Randolph much of the afternoon. While West finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, he had two key defensive plays to stop the Grizzlies in their pursuit of the lead. First, after getting switched to Mike Conley, West closed out on Conley's perimeter shot and blocked a swath of the ball. The play gave the Pacers ball and made Conley's decision not to get the ball to Z-Bo with Augustin on him a bit curious. West also closed out on Rudy Gay's late three-attempt to tie with 15 seconds left that was well off target.
- Gay had a chance to tie thanks to some head-scratching fouls by the Pacers that gave the Grizz five points from the free throw line in the final two minutes. When the other team needs to score, letting them do so with the clock stopped isn't a good habit.
- Roy Hibbert didn't have a monster bounce-back game but he did enough to at least match the impact Marc Gasol had for the Grizz.
- Speaking of Gasol, he was absolutely enthralled with the action between the first and second quarters when a baby crawling contest ended with two youngins a crawl stride away from the finish line, just frozen as the crowd went crazy. Finally one of the babes pushed it across the finish line to the delight of no one more than Gasol.
- Again, Paul George. Played over 40 minutes like a superstar.