Post-Game Grades: Just Another Pacers' Comeback Win as Indiana Out-Plays Memphis Late

You know you’re in for an ugly game when you sit down to watch a 3:00 pm tip off on New Year’s Eve featuring the two hardest-to-score-on teams in the NBA. Memphis and Indiana entered the game as the only two defenses allowing their opponents to score less than one point per possession.

It showed early.

The offenses combined to make just 16-of-42 (38.1%) shots in the first quarter. They were knotted at 19 points apiece. It was as exciting as it sounds.

Little changed anytime soon, but the Grizzlies—slowly but surely began to take control of the game. Indiana stayed close for awhile as they rained in timely threes, but Memphis was playing better basketball and out-muscling the Pacers’ big men for offensive boards. Neither team shot well, but the Grizzlies had longer, more cohesive possessions and ended up taking six more shots in the first half.

The three-point halftime lead was negligible, but it was more of a Grizzly game than a Pacer game, and it took some perhaps-unexpected good possessions from DJ Augustin and Lance Stephenson for Indy to keep pace. Stephenson’s two three-pointers, while certainly part of his repertoire at this point, weren’t exactly designed plays that were the product of great-run offensive sets.

In short, Memphis was steadily pounding its jackhammer against a tough-to-crack barricade, but Indiana was mostly just chucking rocks from afar that, by happenstance, left a few cracks in a fortified wall.

The Pacers got off to a much better start in the third. With a few more threes and some good offense by Roy Hibbert, they even managed to snatch the lead.

That advantage was short-lived.

Memphis roared back and soon pulled up by as much as 12. Then, without warning, the Pacers decided they would play some of the best defense they had all year.

In the final six minutes of the third quarter, nobody on Memphis aside from Zach Randolph scored a point. Darrel Arthur got in on the action slightly early in the fourth. But overall, the Grizzlies scored just eight points over an 11-minute period from half-way through the third until almost the middle of the fourth.

The Pacers, while not exactly the playing like the 2004 Phoenix Suns, dropped in 23 points over the same duration — punctuated by two huge three-pointers from third-string point guard Ben Hansbrough — to take the lead.

In all, Indiana held Memphis to just 5-for-20 shooting in the fourth — including just 2-for-10 in the paint. In fairness, some of this was just bad Grizzlies offense. But at a time when we just watched Indiana’s stalwart defense break-not-bend against the surging Atlanta Hawks, the determination to lock-down late on New Year’s Eve can’t be overstated.

Between that, and the complementary offensive outburst from the Pacers in the fourth, this team should enter 2013 on its biggest high of the season.

These double-digit comebacks are beginning to occur with such regularity that it’s easy to start taking them for granted. And there is obviously an underlying problem when a supposedly good teams continually falls behind — especially to the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and New Orleans Hornets.

The perseverance the Pacers showed today, however, somehow seemed much more meaningful than some of the others. It wasn’t like they played an excellent game here, but they did play a terrific final 18 minutes. Maybe it was because it was against a good team this time or maybe it was because the Grizzlies didn’t just fold after the Pacers made their run as some of the lesser teams they’ve leapfrogged have.

Regardless, all things considered — no George Hill, Augustin finally looking like an NBA player, David West continually to be Mr. Fourth Quarter, Paul George further showing why he is evolving into one of the NBA’s best two-way wing players, Lil’ Hansbrough contributing huge buckets, Roy Hibbert making yet another huge block late — this was probably the Pacers’ best win of the season.

Better things may yet be in store for 2013.

(Still, hurry back Danny Granger. This offense continues to gross me out half the time.)

Pacers Grizzlies

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at me (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 34 MIN | 3-6 FG | 7-8 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +4

Fairly worthless for most of the game and got torched by Zach Randolph. Who cares though. He entered the game in the fourth, got a steal that led to a Paul George breakaway dunk then earned 4 FTs (all makes) in the next 90 seconds. They were down 2 when he entered. They were up 3 after those FTs. They never again trailed.

Paul George, SF 41 MIN | 7-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 21 PTS | +14

It’s getting ridiculous that this is now a typical stat line. He played wonderful basketball on both ends, something best highlighted by the baseline jumper he hit with 4 minutes left as the shot clock dwindled and the textbook defense he played on Rudy Gay as he drove into the paint a few possessions earlier.

Roy Hibbert, C 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -2

The shots were all over the place, but he was back to protecting the paint. None were bigger than a block he had on a cutting Rudy Gay in the fourth.

D.J. Augustin, PG 34 MIN | 4-9 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 17 PTS | -1

His best game as a Pacer. Easily. Stuck his threes, made his free throws, didn’t over-dribble much and never looked like a physically over-matched point guard who can’t see passing angles. The shooting isn’t sustainable, likely, but hopefully this will give him something to build on. A reminder that he is a good basketball player.

Lance Stephenson, SG 33 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +3

Big spark in the first half, when he scored 8 of his 10 points. This is starting to feel like his role: do stuff when everyone else is spinning their wheels.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +5

One of the reasons the Pacers were able to comeback was that they ratcheted up their effort about 12 notches once they fell down by double digits. Early in the fourth, for instance, the Grizz were whistled for two loose ball fouls as Indy chased their own missed shots. One was pure effort by Tyler. He was contagious. Also, good in the typical ways.

Gerald Green, SF 15 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | 0

Played OK.

Sam Young, SF 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -9

Wasn’t out there long enough to make an impact against his former team.

Ian Mahinmi, C 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +3

His worst game in while.

Ben Hansbrough, PG 14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +8

What more could you ask for?

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