Tonight, the Grizzlies travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers. Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Pacers and about tonight’s matchup. I also answered some Grizzlies questions. You can find the Indy Cornrows half of the Q&A over here.
SOV: Would you say the Pacers are underperforming the expectations people had for them this year?
Tom: Considering where they Pacers left off last season it may appear they are underperforming against raised expectations, but they are actually putting together a pretty impressive season to date. Danny Granger is the team’s top offensive option and he has yet to play a game. Not only that, he was a late scratch to start the season to the Pacers pretty much had to go with what they had which means an inexperienced Lance Stephenson is not starting at off guard as Paul George moves to the small forward position.
The team’s offense still hasn’t recovered from losing a 20 point per game scorer, but the team has adjusted to Granger’s absence by playing some of the league’s best defense. Along with that, both Stephenson and George have raised their level of play over the past few weeks to keep the Pacers in the mix for the playoffs and the top spot in the Central Division. If Granger can return for the last two months of the season they will have a chance to finally realize those preseason expectations and still be in position for a top six seed in the East.
Tom: Roy Hibbert doesn’t seem to match up well with anyone these days, let alone a legit center with the game of Gasol. Hibbert has really been struggling at the offensive end for much of the year but has been a strong defensive presence protecting the rim and among the league leaders in blocks. Hibbert has complained of a nagging wrist injury which has hampered his right hand. Hard to say if that is the only thing that hurts him since he has had a couple of big games. He hit rock bottom in Atlanta on Saturday night when he score zero points and grabbed one rebound. The Pacers desperately need Hibbert to bounce back and at least hold his own against Gasol to have a chance to beat the Grizz.
SOV: The Grizzlies drafted Sam Young, and he played here until we traded him last season. How much has he contributed for the Pacers this year?
Tom: Young has missed the past couple of games due to sickness but has been a pretty reliable option of the bench for the Pacers. He’s not flashy and at times a liability on the offensive end, but his toughness and willingness to defend anyone is a bonus off the bench. Assuming Danny Granger returns, Young’s minutes will be reduced as Lance Stephenson begins coming off the bench in Young’s current role. I don’t think Young will fall completely out of the rotation though thanks to his defense.
Tom: Before Granger went down the Central appeared to be the Pacers’ division to lose but now it has turned into a tight three-team race with Indiana, Chicago and Milwaukee all holding the top spot at different times this season. Milwaukee has been a surprise and unless they decide to one of their potent guards and look to the future don’t appear to be going anywhere. Chicago continues to be a tough team to deal with even without Derrick Rose thanks to their defense. The Bulls have survived like the Pacers, by locking up opponents and scoring just enough to win more than they lose.
If Rose and Granger both return it seems like the Chicago and Indiana will eventually have to decide the division title, but again, until Milwaukee shows any signs of fading they have to remain a player in the Central race.
(Check out Indy Cornrows for more about the Pacers.)