Indiana Pacers (51-18) at Memphis Grizzlies (40-28)
Location: FedEx Forum — Memphis, Tennessee
Tip: 8:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Indiana
Line: Memphis -2.5
Coming off a much-needed win over a quality opponent, albeit it was at home, the Indiana Pacers now face a real test. The team travels to Memphis for a matchup tonight with the Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back. Indiana defeated Chicago, 91-79, on Friday night in Indianapolis.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the Grizz. For several seasons, Memphis has battled, much like Indiana, its way into the playoffs relying on their defense. That is still the backbone of the team: big men dominate the paint and the backcourt takes care of business around the perimeter.
That demeanor has led them to the playoffs the past few seasons, and stirred some very intriguing, seven-game-series battles with top Western Conference opponents. Last year, Memphis reached the West finals, just like Indy made it as far in the East, only to fall short at the hands of a more veteran team. They were the third- and fourth-best teams in the NBA (with Indiana pretty easily able to claim third since the Grizzlies got swept by the Spurs while the Pacers too the eventual champs to a Game 7).
A coaching change took place when Memphis let Lionel Hollins go last summer. Team executives replaced him with David Joerger and watched as the injury-riddled team stumbled through the early part of this season.
It’s now March, and in basketball, that means crunch time. For Memphis, it stands for winning basketball games. The Grizzlies are currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA and are clinging to the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings, making them a very dangerous bunch this time of year.
With their experience, tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers is nothing to scoff at. The Grizz are hungry for wins in whatever way imaginable.
Tonight it will be two teams — one a lock for the playoffs and another fighting for a spot — playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Both faced tough opponents Friday; Indiana defeated Chicago while Memphis lost to Miami.
Similar styles of play have spurred some great games between these two foes over recent years. Since Memphis and Indiana match up so evenly, tonight’s contest should be no different than any other over the past couple seasons.
Although the Indiana Pacers took care of business at home against the Grizzlies on November 11, winning 95-79, those were two completely different teams at that point in the season. Expect another struggle for Indiana offensively tonight. Memphis ranks third behind Indiana and Chicago in team defense, allowing just 94.4 points per game. The Pacers give up 92 per game, according to ESPN.com.
Prediction: I hate myself for starting a new era with 8 Points, 9 Seconds by predicting three straight losses in my game previews. Truth be told, Indiana plays poorly on the second night of back-to-backs. Memphis is playing on their home court, and thus conquers Indiana, 95-87. (I hope I’m wrong).