For the first time since the season’s opening three games, the Indiana Pacers have pieced together a three-game winning streak. That they did it in a wire-to-wire victory over the Memphis Grizzlies sounds a bit more imposing than it was in practice, especially given how precarious things became late due to a night full of defensive struggles.
The Pacers absolutely rode their offense to a win, which has been a bit of an interesting note in this three-game winning streak that began with the high-scoring win over Minnesota. They even broke their own season high for points in a quarter that was set on Wednesday, posting a 45-point first quarter.
Indiana shot 13-19 from the floor in the opening frame, playing with not only pace, but a ridiculous efficiency with their ball movement that gave them numerous opportunities around the basket. Though the Pacers managed to simply outscore Memphis in the quarter, they still allowed 31 points, offering up enough life for them to stay in the game.
The Grizzlies made their first real push when the Pacers had their first three bad possessions in a row up 17, allowing Memphis to quickly slice into the lead, eventually bringing it to within three late in the quarter. Indiana picked things up to close the half, outscoring Memphis 12-4, putting them back ahead double figures.
Memphis kept coming in the third quarter with Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon responding to just about every push, once again ballooning the lead out to 16. Soon after, Domantas Sabonis picked up his fifth foul of the game on two tough whistles against Ja Morant and Jonas Valancunias, breathing life into Memphis’s comeback attempt.
That particular attempt was temporarily halted when Brogdon and Goga Bitadze hit back-to-back threes to make it a game high 18, a lead that was summarily cut in half by the end of the quarter. The Pacers closed the third without a field goal in the final 2:56, scoring just two points on 2-4 shooting from Brogdon at the line.
T.J. McConnell provided the bench offense early in the fourth, scoring six of the first eight of the quarter for the Pacers to keep the at nine. Memphis would score the next six to make it a three point game. On the next play, Jeremy Lamb missed a three, but fought for the rebound. LeVert dove on the ball, tapping into the backcourt where Brogdon picked it up and stepped into a second chance three to expand the lead to six.
Valanciunias was a handful all night for the Pacers defense, scoring the next four to cut it to two. Sabonis followed with a crucial three point play, eventually pushing the lead out to seven with 2:54 remaining. That would again create ample opportunity for Valanciunias to will Memphis back into the game, scoring four more on a 6-0 Memphis run that cut it to one.
With the Grizzlies commanding the offensive glass, it was the timely rebounding of the Pacers on their own end that seemed to bail them out all night. Up one, Brogdon missed a three point attempt, opening up a wide open Justin Holiday putback dunk. Then LeVert would drill a floater off of a McConnell rebound to keep the game at three with 30 seconds left.
The defense would also show up at just the right time; Brogdon forcing a turnover on Morant (leading to a LeVert outlet dunk) and LeVert blocking Desmond Bane’s layup attempt to close out the hard fought 132-125 win.
Indiana finished the game shooting 52.5%, including 13-37 from three point range, falling ever so slightly off after their blistering first quarter. That quarter ended up being more important in the long run than the Pacers would’ve probably hoped, as they ended up losing each of the following three quarters by a total of eight points.
Memphis kept themselves alive by dominating the offensive glass, pulling in 24 offensive rebounds leading to 30 second chance points. The Pacers, to their credit, closed the gap in second chance scoring late, but it was still a lot to handle, even as the Pacers won the rebounding battle by three.
The Grizzlies scored 88 points in the paint, which again is a problem the Pacers were able to minimize by scoring 70 themselves. The 158 total paint points is shocking at face value, but even more so considering how much zone was run throughout the game.
Despite 44 combined zone possessions!
– 39 combined OREB (30 putbacks)
– Living in transition
– going over against ja, even on hand-offs
– not doubling Jonas in the post https://t.co/H6Wyj8hgt9
— Caitlin Cooper (@C2_Cooper) April 12, 2021
The Pacers were led on the night by LeVert, scoring his Pacers best 34 points. LeVert had 30 through three, showing flashes of being the dominant scorer Indiana has desperately lacked since losing T.J. Warren at the beginning of the season. LeVert also had some nice defensive plays, picking up a steal and blocking three shots.
LeVert’s play made things much easier offensively for Brogdon, who could have a big night scoring himself without forcing things too much. Brogdon finished with 29 points on 10-21 shooting, hitting five threes in the process. He also finished one rebound shy of a triple double with 11 assists and nine boards.
Sabonis also came up just shy on a triple double, scoring 18 points with 15 rebounds and nine dimes. The matchup between him and fellow Lithuanian center Valanciunas was fun early, but quickly became less so once Sabonis got into foul trouble and Valanciunas began commanding the glass with an endless amount of putbacks.
Sabonis still worked through on the offensive end, pulling in a team high four offensive boards. His passing, especially early, was superb, making it almost contagious for other guys to put together some fancy passes. Doug McDermott even tossed an alley oop to Aaron Holiday, who finished the floating layup.
Sumner was the early beneficiary of the exquisite passing, scoring nine of his 11 points in the opening quarter with McDermott quickly following with 10 of his 13 as the Pacers pushed ahead by 17 early in the second quarter. McConnell got to double figures with 10 points, hitting his first five shots in typical McConnell fashion, carrying the offensive load when the Pacers just needed a bucket. Bitadze scored seven with six boards, but led the way with five blocks.
The Pacers remain in ninth in the East with the win as the teams directly above them in the standings suddenly can’t lose themselves. The win streak will be put to the test when they return home for a game to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, a nationally televised game on TNT.