Not much went well for the Grizzlies, who fell to 3-4 Monday night on the road against the still-undefeated Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, after coming up one game short of the NBA Finals last year, are on a mission to win home court advantage this year, and they've gotten off to a white-hot start, and at this point they're the only team left in the league that has yet to lose.
The Grizzlies got off to a slow start, trailing 23-16 after the first quarter, and they never really got back into it from there. They only outscored the Pacers in the 4th quarter, and that was only by one point. Really, nothing went according to plan for the Grizzlies.
• Injuries came into play tonight: Jerryd Bayless did not dress for the second straight game after injuring his knee against the New Orleans Pelicans. Quincy Pondexter left the game after taking a nasty elbow from, well, Ed Davis, and X-rays on his face later revealed that he had a broken nose. It remains to be seen how much time Pondexter will miss, if any—Pondexter seemed to be back in the rotation after only playing limited minutes against the Warriors on Saturday night.
• The Pacers, honestly, are a better version of the Grizzlies. Roy Hibbert is in the top tier of NBA centers, and the Pacers have much more talent on the wings than the Grizzlies do at this point, especially offensively. George Hill gave Mike Conley all kinds of problems tonight, but what really killed the Grizzlies was the play of Lance Stephenson, who notched his first NBA triple-double, and Paul George. Until the Grizzlies are able to supplement their inside play and stifling defense with more offensive firepower—time will tell whether the addition of Mike Miller was enough to improve spacing for this year's Grizzlies, but early signs point to "ehhhh"—they're going to look like a scrappier, underdog version of this Pacers team.
• The interior defense problems popped back up tonight, with the Pacers' guards and forwards able to slash through the heart of the Grizzlies' defense at will. At least twice, Paul George drove straight through a crowd of four Grizzlies players to get a layup. That's just not going to cut it. Sure, the Pacers are good, but the Grizzlies have to tighten that up.
• I'm still not panicking. I think we are starting to see what's worth worrying about, though. Joerger beat a good team by shortening the rotation and then went right back to "play everybody" mode tonight in Indiana, except for Jon Leuer, even though Leuer had been playing really well. I don't understand how it takes this long to see that the all-bench-players lineups aren't able to do anything productive and that there's no shame in always having a starter on the floor. Just because the team can go 12 deep doesn't mean that (1) that has to happen every night and (2) you need to just sub the whole team out hockey-style. It's early, but the shorter rotation worked wonders on Saturday night.
• Ed Davis, on the whole, was more good than bad against a very good team. In 17 minutes he had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks, and while he had his moments—trying to dunk on Roy Hibbert was a bad decision—I thought he handled himself pretty well. Mild praise, I know, but Davis seems to be becoming a bit of a punching bag among Griz fans (Grizz fans? I know we're having a "One Z or Two" debate in the Grizzlies universe right now...) and I want to point out that he wasn't bad against Indiana.
That's all I got. The Grizzlies lost on the road to a better team that was executing much better and looked much more confident in their identity. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Pacers in the Finals. I'm glad that's the only place in the playoffs the Grizzlies could possibly have to play them.
UPDATE: The original version of this post mentioned Danny Granger in the Pacers' wing rotation like he'd played tonight... which didn't happen. Granger hasn't played a game yet this season. To be honest, I don't remember who I was thinking about when I typed "Danny Granger" instead, or whether I was thinking about this Granger update, so I just deleted that sentence. Blogging is a tough business, y'all. That said, whenever they do get Granger back, the Pacers are going to be even better.