Memphis Grizzlies (3-3) at Indiana Pacers (7-0)
Allow me to officially congratulate the Indiana Pacers on their best start in franchise history at 7-0. Albeit only seven games, and the first seven of the season at that, it is an accomplishment to be proud of. A seven-game winning streak anytime during the regular season is a positive for any team.
“We built this,” said Paul George, the Pacers’ all-star forward. George was also quoted saying, “we didn’t go out and grab guys” in reference of a recent trend with franchises unloading their salary caps to sign big-name free agents. Head coach Frank Vogel, typically mellow but always positive, also showed high praise in his players for their stellar play early on.
“It’s exciting,” Vogel said. “It’s special for me to be part of it. I’m just excited to see where it’s going to go.”
Anyway, about that game tonight. The Memphis Grizzlies come to Indianapolis sitting at 3-3 through their first six games. Most impressive thus far from a Memphis fan’s perspective was their 108-90 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. Other than that, the Grizzlies have not looked like the team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season.
Despite their record and somewhat-sluggish start, I fully expect them to reach the playoffs yet again this season. No doubt will they be tough and aggressive, as always, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse tonight against the Indiana Pacers. Indiana has won seven straight to start the season, in the process of receiving its opposition’s best effort each night. It isn’t like the seven wins have been a walk in the park.
For reference, the Pacers’ 97-80 blowout win over the Chicago Bulls last week was not a blowout until midway through the fourth quarter. Despite leading the Brooklyn Nets by double-digits in the fourth quarter Saturday night at the Barclays Center, Indiana still allowed Brooklyn to get within three points as the final moments ticked away, finally winning 96-91. The Pacers fell behind big in New Orleans in the second game of the season, only to rally with a huge second half and escape with a 2-0 record.
Grizzlies’ standouts Mike Conley and Zach Randolph, both with Indiana ties, consistently present a challenge for George Hill and David West. Conley leads Memphis in scoring at just over 20 PPG, while Randolph leads the team in rebounds (8.2) and is third in scoring (13.2). The two are versatile, excellent in pick-and-roll situations, and make good decisions with the basketball.
Paul George and Lance Stephenson need to bring their best against Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen, respectively. Prince and Allen are very good defensively, and Memphis had arguably the best defense in the league last season, trailing only the Pacers.
I envision George reaching the 20-point plateau for an eighth straight game. Roy Hibbert ought to continue his progression on both ends of the floor. He will block at least three shots tonight.
The Indiana Pacers will win tonight and reach 8-0, two games shy of Stephenson’s 10-0 prediction to begin the season. I like Indiana by 11 in front of the home crowd. And help the home crowd out by buying your Pacers tickets for tonight!