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Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Indiana Pacers

In the midst of arguably their toughest stretch of the season, the Grizzlies look to stay competitive in Larry Bird Land.

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Nikki Boertman/NBAE via Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (5-10, 2-3 away) vs. Indiana Pacers (9-6, 5-2 home )

WHEN: 6:00 PM CT

WHERE: Banker’s Life Fieldhouse Indianapolis, Indiana

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Marko Guduric (questionable, knee)

INDIANA: Victor Oladipo (Out, Quad), JaKarr Sampson (Doubtful, Back), Edmund Sumner (Out, Hand)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas

INDIANA: Myles Turner, Damontas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren

Over the past few weeks, there have been signs that the Grizzlies are successfully implementing the offense that Taylor Jenkins has envisioned for this roster. Ja Morant continues to be spectacular, Brandon Clarke has been historically efficient for a rookie, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is starting to be consistent as true difference maker. Beyond the individual successes from the team’s core, Jenkins “pace and space” philosophy is truly making Memphis more competitive than many expected.

Memphis is currently fifth in the NBA in pace per game, averaging 104.1 possessions per game. They are ninth in field goals made per game and third in assists. While they also are 27th in the league in turnovers, the quantity of attempts has allowed for them to stay in games.

However, it is not the quantity that indicates improvement; the Grizzlies have improved the quality of their play as well. They are 14th in FG%, 19th in 3P%, and 17th in points per game. In general, those rankings make the Grizzlies average to below average at best. However, they are a vast improvement from where Memphis was a few weeks ago.

One of the most obvious areas where the Grizzlies have gotten better is in their three point shooting. For instance, Jaren Jackson Jr. is 21-43 over his past seven games from beyond the arc. Consider for a moment that, between Vancouver and Memphis, the Grizzlies have had 34 games in which they have made 14 or more threes while shooting better than 40% from three in the history of the franchise. Four of those games have come in their first 15 games of the 2019-2020 season, including three of the last five games.

This is not the previous generation’s Memphis Grizzlies anymore. This an offense that is starting to gel with the potential to be one of the best in the NBA in time.

If you are still a fan of the Grit and Grind era, there may be no better current example than the Grizzlies opponent, the Indiana Pacers. Indiana has been one of the best defensive teams over the past few years. Currently, they are 26th in pace and 29th in three pointers made and attempted per game, yet first in two pointers attempted and second in two pointers made per game. If that sounds familiar, it is because the Pacers have found success playing a similar brand of ball that brought Memphis so much success earlier this decade. With a fully healthy roster in place with Malcolm Brogdon back, this team will likely only get better.

The Grizzlies are the underdog tonight, but there are a few avenues that could lead to a win. It starts from Larry Bird’s favorite place on the court:

Let it Fly: As mentioned above, Memphis has had tremendous success recently shooting the three. With the Pacers talented trio of Myles Turner, Damontas Sabonis, and Goga Bitadze packing the paint, the Grizzlies will need to implement a similar game plan that worked against the Lakers. Intelligent passing, effective off the ball movement, and good looks on jumpers and from beyond the arc will be essential to get a win tonight.

Stay Disciplined: Perhaps the biggest advantage the Pacers have tonight is the turnover battle. Memphis ranks 27th in turnovers committed per game, while the Pacers rank fifth. Indiana is 10th in the NBA in FG%, and with their cohesiveness as a team, having extra possessions in transition could result in plenty of easy scoring opportunities. Turnovers have hurt Memphis late in games when trying to comeback or keep a lead. They must focus on preventing that from happening tonight.

Limit Fouls: The Grizzlies are 21st in the league in fouls committed per game. The Pacers are third in the league in free throw percentage, but last in free throw attempts and makes. The Grizzlies cannot afford to give the Pacers extra looks from the line. This is especially true for Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas, whose size will be needed in the post all night long.

The Prediction:

If the Grizzlies can continue their offensive success through smart passes, good shots, and limiting turnovers, they could get the win tonight, especially if the Pacers struggle from the field. However, the depth and discipline of the Pacers may this test a hard one to pass for Memphis, especially on the road. Hopefully, a second straight good game from Ja Morant and Jackson Jr. will be a great step in the right direction, even in a loss.

PACERS 107 GRIZZLIES 101

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