The wheels completely came off for the Indiana Pacers tonight, suffering their worst loss of the season at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies ran Indiana into the ground, sucking the life from them with an endless barrage of fast break opportunities. The end result was a listless showing for the home Pacers.
Jalen Smith gave the Pacers their only lead of the game at 22-21 with a layup courtesy of Buddy Hield. To that point, the Pacers had done a solid job hanging with the Grizzlies, without Ja Morant, but five points from Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton changed that, giving Memphis the lead for good.
They closed the quarter on an 11-3 run and proceeded to explode in the second quarter for 42 points. Richmond, Indiana native Desmond Bane was absolutely hyped to be playing back in his home state, buying upwards of 200 tickets for the game. He was phenomenal all night, scoring 21, shooting an efficient 4-7 from deep.
It’s worth noting that the focus is on Bane because quite frankly, no one on the Pacers had a night worth mentioning. Lance Stephenson hit a pair of elbow jumpers in the second quarter in his return to action, but if that’s the biggest pop the team gets through an entire game, then a 40-point loss is absolutely on the table.
Outside of having no pop offensively, the Pacers were downright bad on the defensive end. In the first half alone, the Grizzlies scored 24 fast break points, taking full advantage of Indiana’s league worst transition defense since the deadline. If that weren’t bad enough, the Pacers allowed 18 offensive rebounds, leading to 23 second chance points for Memphis. Just for fun, Indiana was also outscored 32-3 in points off turnovers, committing 20 for the game.
The Pacers eventually got it up five double figure scorers by the end of this one, led by Jalen Smith with 15. Smith was one of the bright spots early in the game after some early foul trouble from Oshae Brissett and shorter minutes from Isaiah Jackson put him to work. However, his offensive foul at the very end of the first quarter on a dunk would go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of the night.
Terry Taylor scored 14 points, leading the way in efficiency (7-8), rebounding (eight), and blocks (two). With all the bad stuff going on, it was refreshing to see Taylor just do what Taylor does, rebound on the offensive glass and score on layups. Hield also had 14, missing both of his three point attempts on a night the Pacers were just 6-30 from deep.
He had just two assists as well, in part due to Indiana’s poor shooting night overall, but it was an especially poor outing for both he and Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton had a Pacers career low of four points on 2-9 shooting. He had six of his eight assists in the first quarter, but offered up little beyond that, continuing to struggle with turnovers, committing four.
Also in double figures were Malcolm Brogdon with 12 on 4-13 in his return to action, really struggling to keep up with what the Grizzlies had going on. Duane Washington Jr. finished with 13, hitting a pair of triples.
The worst part of this loss isn’t just that they were run out of the gym by a vastly superior opponent, but it does show that this rebuild isn’t likely to be an overnight fix. The Pacers entered tonight’s game with the 26th rated defense and it only went in the wrong direction tonight.
Getting this franchise right is going to take some level of commitment to the defensive end and though the roster isn’t completely bereft of talent, this wasn’t a uniquely poor showing on that end of the floor for this particular Pacers team.
Indiana will get the pleasure of doing this all over again in nine days when they travel to Memphis, but in the meantime, they’ll face a much less daunting schedule that begins with a road game against the Houston Rockets on Friday before a pair of home games next week against Portland and Sacramento.