The Pacers starting unit reunited on the court for just the third time this season, if you count the first quarter in Brooklyn before Myles Turner sprained his ankle. The double-big group remains a work in progress, but they did have a quality stint against Memphis to open up the second half.
Starting with an 11-point lead, the first unit pushed the lead to as much as 22 over the first eight minutes before Justin Holiday subbed in with the lead at 19. The plus-8 run over extended minutes shouldn’t be a big deal against the young Griz team but the offensive nature of the run, scoring 25 points in 8 minutes was noteworthy.
Malcolm Brogdon definitely helps make the offense go and in particular, Brogdon can get T.J. Warren cooking. Defensively, there were issues which was the focus of Nate McMillan’s complaints after the win. McMillan appreciates the last line of defense that Myles Turner provides, swatting five shots at the rim on the night, but he’d rather Turner didn’t have to slide over to help defend the rim. Instead, he’d like his other defenders to keep their man out of the lane.
To be fair, few in the NBA have been able to keep rookie Ja Morant out of the lane so far this season, and the kid is a problem once he breaks down the D. But Turner played his role to the fullest. In fact, with shots coming from others, Turner focused on the dirty work which included pounding against Jonas Valanciunas much of the night. Whle Turner only had four rebounds, he often kept Valanciunas occupied so Sabonis could clean the glass.
Getting out to shooters also remains an issue as power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. exposed with his strong shooting performance behind the arc. Jackson scored 8 points in the first part of the third quarter, including a pair of his 6 threes on the night.
The starting unit had a solid run against a Grizzlies unit they should extend a lead against. With defense as their focus on the off day, they will have to raise their game on Wednesday when the Utah Jazz come to town. The Jazz, playing without Rudy Gobert (ankle), lost a tight one in Milwaukee on Monday night, despite Giannis Antetokounmpo throwing 50 points in their face. Under those circumstances, a 122-118 loss is reasonable and a sign of a tough-minded team that will be a tough test for the Pacers.
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