On the eighth game of losing, the Pacers seemed to give to me, the same thing we got from losses five to seven. Following a slow first quarter start, the Pacers showed some life in the first half only to find themselves in a big halftime deficit. You can tell me to stop as soon as you can figure out where this is going. Or so you think?
With three Indiana high school legends taking the court in this game, it seems appropriate to compare the play of the Grizzlies to my grandfather's favorite local basketball story: Warren High School's "Lightning 5." The Lightning 5 were given their moniker in the 1920's to describe the play that terrorized the state with the incomparable speed and excitement of their starting five. Watching the Grizzlies young and talented starting unit might be what fans in those days saw, and it's easy to see why Grizzlies fans should be excited.
The Grizzlies starting five once again carried the load of the work for Memphis, having four of their starters in double figures by halftime, and scoring 105 of their team's 121 points, further solidifying their five starters and their individual roles. For the Pacers, roles and stability are not words we're familiar with, due in part to injuries, but also due in part to yet another starting lineup tonight, including Luther Head in his first start.
The Pacers were once again without Tyler Hansbrough with an ear infection, and also saw Troy Murphy out with an ankle injury. Add in Granger, Diener, and Foster, and the Pacers were able to dress ten players, and all ten saw playing time. Indiana started off much the same way they have for the past four games: a slow start doubled up by the opponent exploding out of the gate. At the halfway point of the first quarter, the Pacers were already down double digits.
And keeping true to the script, the Pacers made their fight back, this time in the first quarter, closing out the quarter on a 9-0 run. The high note of the first quarter didn't last, and the Grizzlies took advantage of Indiana's lifeless start to the second quarter, pushing forth a 12-2 run of their own to push the game back. The Pacers would drop to as many as 24 down before pulling to within 17 at the half.
The Pacers spent the third quarter treading water, failing to stop Memphis following a big play, or needing to respond to Memphis making a play, despite a monster quarter from Roy Hibbert. The Pacers finished the third down 14, and would wallow for much of the fourth, until Luther Head exploded for eight straight Indiana points. The spark would be short lived, however, as Earl Watson would go on to miss two key free throws as Memphis answered on their end as the Pacers just didn't have enough offense to keep pace.
It was a nice night for the guys who had to step up their games in absence, however, as Hibbert, Rush, Head, D.Jones, and McRoberts all showed up to play, shining a positive light on a very negative game. More positives (with some negatives) available after the jump!
- Indiana was finally able to have themselves a fine shooting night, but Memphis simply had a better one. The Grizzlies ended up with 50.6%, besting Indiana's 48.3%, getting point advantages from the free throw line, three point line, and points off of turnovers, all heavily in Memphis's favor.
- Speaking of turnovers, the Pacers committed 18 of the dreaded things, allowing the Grizzlies to take full advantage, giving them 21 free points.
- The Pacers extended their season long losing streak to eight games, the longest of Jim O'Brien's tenure, and the longest since they lost 11 straight in the 2006-07 season. In that stretch in 2007, the Pacers never broke the century mark. In this streak? The Pacers broke the century mark for the first time in this streak tonight, but still allowed 121 points.
- Jamaal Tinsley played limited minutes in his first game at Conseco Fieldhouse in almost two years, playing very smart ball amidst boos, notching 3 points and 2 steals, but doing a number of small things to keep Memphis ahead.
- Roy Hibbert was one of the Pacers' brightest stars tonight, having himself a career night. Hungry Hungry Hibbert threw down a career high 25 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for good measure, totalling to his sixth double double of the year.
- Luther Head also happened to have a career night in his first start of the year, finishing with a team high 30 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. I wasn't a fan of his play in the first half, feeling it was too careless for what the team needed, but he made big play after big play in the second, exploding for a series of threes down the stretch as if to say, "You, sir, are wrong about me." I will say there are worse things to be wrong about.
- Who didn't play well? Mike Dunleavy. A quiet 0-3, 1 TO, and 3 PF in 16 minutes. Are we sure something isn't totally wrong with him right now?
- Solomon Jones got his second start in this game, and made every bit of use of it to start the game, scoring Indiana's first four points to help them get lifted and not fall into a deeper hole than they already did.
- The Indiana Pacers Years' End Dunk Super Sale was in full force tonight, as fans were treated to a series of highlight worthy jams from Josh McRoberts, Dahntay Jones, and Brandon Rush. The Grizzlies had a fair share of their own as well, but if wins and losses were measured by the number of awesome in-game slam dunks, Indiana would be winners tonight. Except they kind of...don't.
- Josh McRoberts has been making the most of his time the past two games, including tonight, where he made a number of heads-up plays from passes to jams. I think it might not hurt to give this guy more reps than he's been getting up to this point.
Tonight's game was almost as much fun as you can have in watching a double digit loss. The Pacers failed to stop the Grizzlies when they needed to stop the Grizzlies. But for as painful as this losing streak has been, the team did a good job making it entertaining, showcasing more positives than one should ever be able to find in this kind of loss. The Pacers get to take on the 7-25 Timberwolves at home on Saturday, looking to end this streak at 8 and kick the New Year off better than they finished this one.