Silly me. I figured if the Pacers were going to lose their Friday night game in Memphis, the Grizzlies would have to ride big nights from their major league scorers, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo.
Mayo and Gay have been known to go off and the Pacers have a problem slowing down scorers of their ilk (Devin Harris and Vince Carter should be fresh in your mind). But the two Griz only combined for 31 points, ten below their combined season average.
And the Pacers still lost?
Yes, the Pacers still lost, 108-105. Despite leading by as much as 17 points, the Pacers still lost. Despite getting a big early boost from Roy Hibbert with 15 first-half points, the Pacers still lost. Despite the return of Marquis Daniels and Troy Murphy to the starting lineup, the Pacers still lost.
Not only did the Pacers lose, but the game shouldn't have been as close as the three-point final deficit. Don't get me wrong, it was close. This was a tight game throughout the second half even though the Pacers put up one of their worst two quarters of the year.
Now, please realize that all of these observations have been filtered through the words of Mark Boyle and Slick Leonard (no TV tonight). So while the visuals are vivid, the game still seemed quite strange.
The Pacers gave up a ton of layups and dunks, often within a couple of seconds of a score by the Pacers. There were stretches where the action was fast and furious and the buckets plentiful.
Then there were turnovers and missed free throws. The Pacers were turning it over (11 second half TOs) and the Griz were missing free throws (24-40 on the night). At one point in the fourth quarter I wondered if either team was interested in winning. Eventually, Memphis found a way to win while the Pacers found a way to lose.
The Griz won by getting outstanding contributions from all of their role players. Hakim Warrick was a menace. Mike Conley played real solid off the bench. And Darko Milicic and Marc Gasol combined to contribute big numbers in the post (28 and 10). Of course Warrick, Milicic and Gasol also combined to miss 13 free throws, but that just made things interesting.
The Pacers lost by straying from their game. After a 36-point first quarter, the Pacers would finish the second HALF with only 37 points. In general, the eleven turnovers were critical but the abject failure by the Pacers to keep the ball out of the lane on defense was fatal in this one. Actually, forget the lane, the Pacers couldn't prevent layups or dunks. No stops on defense and stopping yourself on offense is no way to win.
T.J. Ford did not play due to back spasms and Danny Granger received a mild concussion (no foul, though) in the fourth quarter so he wasn't around for winning time either.
Both were missed. Marquis Daniels stepped up to fill the scoring void late in the game, but no one else could help. Jarrett Jack struggled again down the stretch and exposed why he is considered a backup guard in this league. Once again, with a critical late possession in his hands, Jack made a poor decision and coughed the ball up to Memphis. Slick was truly bewildered by what he saw from Jack.
As the fourth quarter began with the Pacers clinging to a one-point lead, Boyle reminded us that the Pacers have started the fourth quarter with the lead in 11 of their 18 losses. Make that 12 of 19 now.