The Indiana Pacers have grown accustomed to escaping with big comeback wins over the course of this season, but had to escape tonight with the lead against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pacers were one part of an ugly game tonight, and not in the endearing smash mouth style both teams built winning identities on in recent years. The Pacers played dull and nearly allowed it to become a loss.
The Pacers struggled in a number of areas against a patchwork Grizzlies team. Their shooting and turnovers were a problem early while rebounding and free throws very nearly cost them late. The Pacers put themselves in the lead early in the third quarter, but could never truly seize control of the game, watching hard fought eight and nine point leads dwindle to a single possession, all the way to the final two minutes, when Wayne Selden hit back-to-back threes for Memphis to turn a five point deficit into a 101-100 lead.
That lead change capped a four and a half minute stretch in which the Pacers shot just 1-6 and were outscored 12-5. The Pacers still blew their next two possessions, but resiliency proved their best asset with key stops eventually leading to a pair of Myles Turner free throws that he used to put Indiana ahead 102-101 with 34 seconds remaining.
Marc Gasol would miss the ensuing possession, but Selden was there to pull in a tough offensive rebound, leading to another Grizzlies miss followed by a frenzy that would result in another Memphis foul on their end of the floor, putting Bojan Bogdanovic on the free throw line to ice the game.
Bogdanovic would do so, giving the Pacers a sigh-of-relief victory to wrap up their three game home stand perfect. Bogdanovic would lead the way for the Pacers with his best game of the month, scoring a team high 21 on 7-12 shooting, hitting three threes.
With the rest of the team largely unpredictable from possession to possession, it was big to see Bogdanovic break out of his slump. Bogdanovic also had three steals, tying a season high on a night when Indiana’s greatest asset was their ability to force live ball turnovers, leading to a crucial 22-13 advantage.
Indiana shot just 31% from the floor in the first quarter, but were able to hang around thanks to a nine point quarter from Darren Collison and seven from Turner. Collison would finish with 16 points and three steals while Turner would look more familiar on the defensive end with three blocks to go with a 15 point, 11 rebound double double.
What looked more unfamiliar, however, was Turner’s ability to work inside and get to the free throw line. Turner had a season high 12 free throw attempts, though he struggled to convert, hitting just eight, including three straight misses in the second half. He did step up to hit both to give Indiana the lead, however, capping a 5-5 stretch for the Pacers at the line to close out the win.
That ability to close out the win at the line proved somewhat ironic, as the Pacers missed 10 free throws on the night. Throughout the game, the Pacers missed two ends of a back-to-back while Bogdanovic missed the first two in a three shot foul. In the second half, those misses were crucial to keeping the door open for the Grizzlies, who were always there to take advantage of every opening to keep the game within reach.
Off the bench, the Pacers got good play from Lance Stephenson and Domantas Sabonis, with the duo combining for 23 points on 9-13 shooting. Sabonis came up with seven rebounds while Stephenson hit both of his three point attempts. In the starting lineup, Thaddeus Young was one of seven Pacers in double figures with 10 points, including the game’s best dunk of the night.
The Pacers were able to secure the win despite Victor Oladipo having one of his worst nights of the season. Oladipo tied a season low with 13 points on 5-12 shooting, but had trouble with ball control, turning it over seven times. The Grizzlies only scored two points off of those turnovers, however, but a lack of offensive focus took away a number of opportunities for a team that shot 52.9% on the night to get some extra shots.
On one possession late with the Pacers trailing, Oladipo attempted to drive past Gasol to the rim, only to plow right into a Memphis defender ready to pick up the charge. There appeared to be no particular goal on that play other than clearing out for Oladipo, who could have benefited from a screen on Gasol that never came, which made Oladipo oblivious to the waiting defender.
That carelessness was also on display in the first half defensively, with poor rotation decisions on defense giving Memphis opportunities to stay alive, and while the Pacers defense did step up to keep the Grizzlies from capitalizing off of turnovers, they did a poor job bringing in misses, allowing Memphis to pull in 14 offensive rebounds, which turned into 21 second chance points.
It’s not too often a team can steal a win at home, but the Pacers did so tonight, improving their home record to 18-10. The Pacers have won seven of eight at home after dropping five of six. The Pacers overall move to 29-23, six games above .500 for the first time this year. Indiana will take that record on the road when they face the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.