Saturday, February 11, 2012

Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 98, Pacers 92 — Where Gasol Flashes All-Star Form

Posted By on Sat, Feb 11, 2012 at 12:20 AM

The Lead: Heading into tonight's game, the Indiana Pacers were 10-6 on the road, hadn't suffered back-to-back losses, and had not lost a game in which they'd topped 90 points. So it was impressive for the Grizzlies to hand the Pacers their second straight loss despite not being able to play their usual style. The Grizzlies had 9 steals and the Pacers 15 turnovers — good numbers for the Grizzlies but both below their league-leading averages. Yet despite scoring only 8 points in transition, the Grizzlies were still able to score 98 points against what was the league's fifth best defense heading into the game.

In a game with 18 lead changes and a tie score at the end of each of the first three quarters, neither team was able to go on more than a minor run, but the Grizzlies were able to make the winning plays late in the game.

“In the first half they were outworking us. In the second half we did a good job defensively,” coach Lionel Hollins said after the game, commending his bench — including deep options Hamed Haddadi and Jeremy Pargo — for being able to buy rest for key starters, with the Grizzlies able to win a second straight game with Rudy Gay (38), Marc Gasol (35), and Mike Conley (36) all under 40 minutes.

“I thought that helped us stay fresh down the stretch,” Hollins said.

Man of the Match: It was the battle of the All-Star Reserve Centers with Marc Gasol facing off against Roy Hibbert. And while Gasol's final stat line was modest — 15 points on 4-8 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals — he badly outplayed Hibbert (5 points on 1-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, 0 blocks) and made a series of big plays in the final minutes.

With the Grizzlies up one, 88-87, coming out of a timeout, with three minutes to play, Gasol blocked Hibbert on two of the next three Pacers possessions, tying him up the second time and winning the jump ball. Gasol pump-faked and drove past Hibbert on the ensuing Grizzlies possession, getting fouled and hitting both free-throws to extend the Grizzlies lead to 93-87 with a minute to play.

Nightly Number: This game was less interesting than a close, relatively high-scoring game between two good teams should have been, and I blame the officials for that. This game was called too tightly from the beginning, resulting in 55 personal fouls — in 48 minutes! — and 74 free-throw attempts.

The Match-Up: Rudy Gay and the Pacers' Danny Granger are two of the most talented, established NBA players that weren't selected to the All-Star Game and the two small forwards have both been a little off their games this season, both scoring roughly 18.5 points a game on subpar shooting percentages (45% for Gay and a lousy 38% for Granger). Both were a little bit better than that tonight. Granger scored 19 points on 7-15 shooting, doing most of his damage from the perimeter (4-5 from three-point range). Gay scored a team-high 21 points on 8-15, including three dunks, two of which came in halfcourt sets off high-post bounce-pass feeds from Marc Gasol.

In the early fourth quarter, Gay hit consecutive Shane Battier Memorial Baseline Jumpers from opposite corners to turn a deficit into a lead. And though the Pacers would tie it up, briefly, a few minutes later, they would never lead again. The first of these two baskets was crucial because Gay drew a fifth foul on Granger, forcing him to the bench and forcing the Pacers to play without their top scorer for a crucial stretch of the final quarter.

Elements of Style: Tony Allen made his return to the Grizzlies lineup after missing three games with hip and knee soreness, coming off the bench behind Quincy Pondexter. Allen got a big ovation when he came to the scorer's table to check in for the first time, and he saluted the fans. It wasn't a classic Tony Allen game, but he gave the team a much needed jolt of energy when he came in early in the third quarter, the Grizzlies going on an 8-2 run in less than two minutes. Checking back in at the 3:16 mark in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies up 88-87, Allen had defensive rebounds on the next three Pacers possessions (the Pacers had 16 offensive rebounds in the game) and then slipped backdoor to convert a layup off a slick Mike Conley bounce pass to give the Grizzlies a 91-87 lead with 1:49 to go.

The Jacob Riis Report: The Pacers' best player tonight was new power forward David West, who proved too strong for either Marreese Speights or Dante Cunningham and showed that great pick-and-pop game that made him such a terrific partner for Chris Paul in New Orleans. West finished with 22 points (8-13 shooting) and 13 rebounds, both game highs. Indiana's frontcourt depth is impressive, with quality energy guys Jeff Foster (7 rebounds in 12 minutes) and Tyler Hansbrough (7 points) coming off the bench and useful bit players like Louis Amundson and Jeff Pendergraph unable to even get into the rotation.

Where They Stand: The Grizzlies move back above .500, going to 14-13. The Grizzlies are now a fraction of a percentage behind the 13-12 Utah Jazz for 9th in the West and a game behind the Lakers, Blazers, and Nuggets in the 6-8 slots.

Looking Ahead: A big game coming up on Sunday as the Grizzlies host the Utah Jazz in an ESPN game with an 8:30 tipoff. A win will move the Grizzlies ahead of the Jazz and — depending on what happens with the Lakers, Blazers, and Nuggets the next two days — potentially back into the playoff seedings.

Announced Attendance: 16,281

Deflections:

Dante Cunningham was ejected late in the third quarter after consecutive technicals arguing consecutive personal foul calls.

Marreese Speights scored 14 of his season-high 19 points in the first half.

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