The patchwork Pacers face a drastically different challenge in game two against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Philly forced many a furrowed brow in the Fieldhouse as anyone watching the game needed a roster handy to continually answer, "who is that player, again?"
The Grizzlies return the same crew that is always up for a battle in the West, which means Marc Gasol in the post, Michael Conley running the point while inside-out agitators, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen continue making opponents uncomfortable. They also added Vince Carter to their reserve rotation who is a guy past his prime but still capable of draining a three-ball when needed. So after the successful opener against Philly, the bar is raised across the board for the Pacers.
Luis Scola and Lavoy Allen won't have an eager jumping bean with no idea what to do, as they did in Nerlens Noel on opening night. Instead, they must gird for the game of Randolph who knows how to use and abuse his opponents without leaving the ground.
Tony Wroten scored a lot but was far from efficient at point guard for Philly. Donald Sloan will face a better defender in Michael Conley plus a crafty vet who has been making plays and making it look easy at BLF since he was in high school.
Roy Hibbert started slowly but finished strong when there was little resistance put forth form the Philly frontline. Malcom THomas shoving big Roy in the back does not count as resistance and the all-around game of Marc Gasol will force Hibbert to raise his level of play at both ends. THat doesn't mean eclipsing his numbers, either. A classic line of 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks from Hibbert would be more impressive thant the 22, 8 and 7 he posted on opening night.
Last season, the Pacers put forth one of their best games of the year against the Grizzlies at BLF in November, allowing them to cruise to a win. Under far different circumstances this year, expecting a win may be a reach, but more telling will be the type of effort the patchwork Pacers can put forth against a strong opponent.
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