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Pacers offense sputters, at best, in loss to Memphis

A night after Indiana seemingly regained its mojo by beating Chicago, the Pacers went to Memphis and turned in an embarrassing offensive display.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Pacers score by quarter: 17, 13, 19 and 22. A grand total of 71 points, a new season low for Indiana (51-19), as the Pacers fell 82-71 to the Grizzlies (41-28).

“It was a big struggle. We struggled to get a lot a rhythm of our offense. Gotta give credit to the defense. We were a little bit too indecisive, a little too hesitant with the basketball and we had poor shooting nights from a number of guys,” Frank Vogel said.

As a team, the Pacers shot 36.5 percent. Paul George was 2 of 10, David West 5 of 15, George Hill 2 of 7. Lance Stephenson led the Pacers with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting and was the only Pacer having any success attacking the rim.

The Grizzlies dominated inside on both ends, outscoring Indiana 46-24 in the paint. Indiana is third best in the NBA in defensive points in the paint, allowing 35.4 per game. Marc Gasol, who was a game-time decision, and Zach Randolph combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds; West and Roy Hibbert totaled 14 points and six rebounds. Hibbert – at 7-foot-2 – had four points and no rebounds.

“I probably had one or two post ups. Didn’t really have that many looks. We got to do a better job of getting in position,” Hibbert said.

Those one or two post ups came early in the third quarter, as the Pacers went to Hibbert on three straight possessions, but shortly after that Hibbert picked up his fourth foul and found himself on the bench for the majority of the second half.

Vogel even went with a West and Luis Scola frontcourt as he was “just trying to generate offense.” Hibbert played 20:37 seconds; Ian Mahinmi played 22:41.

Hibbert is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, but again, he came down with zero boards against Memphis. It is the first time this season that Hibbert hasn’t snatched a single board.

He’s had just one double-digit rebounding performance in the month of March – on Friday he had 11 rebounds against the Bulls. And in 11 of 13 games in March, Hibbert has five or less rebounds.

Also concerning for the Pacers is Paul George, who had his second sub-10 point game of March. He had eight points on 2 of 10 shooting, and he only attempted two three pointers. George is only 29 percent from three in the month of March.

Defensively for the Pacers, they only allowed 82 points. But Memphis had success going into Randolph in the post and from Mike Miller knocking down transition threes. He was 4 of 6 on threes for 13 points.

But Mike Conley led all scorers with 21 points on 9 of 15 shooting. Conley did most of his damage using a high ball screen. The Pacers sag their big man into the lane, but Conley took advantage and knocked down mid-range jumpers.

“We got a pretty good defensive scheme,” Vogel said. “I liked what we were doing. He made some difficult twos. That wasn’t the problem. The offense was the problem.”

It isn’t the first time Indiana has struggled with a point guard knocking down jumpers off of the pick and roll, as Goran Dragic, Steph Curry and Isiah Thomas have hurt the Pacers. But Indiana’s defense is one of the best in the NBA, and it takes a guard knocking down the least efficient shot to beat the Pacers scheme.

“Mike Conley coming out against their pick-and-roll coverage and being very aggressive was big for us and set the tone,” Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said.

Next up, Indiana will head to Chicago on Monday.