In an often messy game between defensive-minded teams, the Indiana Pacers found just enough of their shooting stroke to knock off the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, 82-81. George Hill's free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining gave Indiana the lead before a Rudy Gay buzzer-beater failed to beat the clock to seal the game.
While the game was riddled with turnovers on both sides -- the two teams turned the ball over a combined 51 times -- the Pacers were knocking down shots when they didn't lose possession. Coming into the game, Indiana had the third-worst shooting percentage in the league at 42.2 percent, but the Pacers made nearly half of their shots against Memphis.
The Pacers' high volume scorers, Paul George and David West, didn't shoot particularly well, but numerous role players took advantage of their opportunities from the field. West and George shot a combined 12 of 29 (41 percent), but the rest of the team was a scorching 22 of 40 (55 percent) from the field.
Coming off a 31-point effort against the Houston Rockets, George wasn't as active on the scoring end against Memphis, but his overall contributions weren't lacking. The forward only had 12 points, but his 10 rebounds and nine assists were high marks for the team.
Before the game, Straight Outta Vancouver wrote that winning against Indiana would be, "highly dependent," on the performance of Zach Randolph. He had his moments, including a late layup that tied the game at 81, but his overall impact -- 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting, seven rebounds - wasn't enough.
While Gay made the buzzer-beater, it was immediately clear that the ball had not left his hand in time. The referees still checked the replay monitor to be sure, but the result was as expected. Indiana's defense gave Gay a tough time all day, limiting the Grizzlies' leading scorer to 14 points on 7 of 22 shooting.
Your Game's Leading Scorer, Wayne Ellington
There were some guys in this game that have known to put up big point totals, from Gay to George to Randolph, but none of those guys could match the scoring output of Grizzlies guard Wayne Ellington on Monday. While the former Tar Heel was otherwise quiet, failing to record a single rebound, assist, steal or block, Ellington led all scorers with 17 points. He was quiet efficient in doing so, too, making all three of his three-point attempts and 7 of 9 shots overall.
Setting A Good Pace
While the climb has been relatively quiet, the Pacers now find themselves just two games out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Since a shaky 10-11 start to the season, Indiana has posted a 16-5 record, rising in a conference that's seen its top teams flounder of late.
If Indiana has had any issue, it's playing on the road, but Monday's victory in Memphis is an obvious step in the right direction. As Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows wrote before the game, Indiana's, "gotta figure out how to consistently compete on the road. No better time than the present."
The Pacers haven't lost a game at home since Dec. 7, a testament to the team's ability to shut teams down offensively in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Ifcan figure out how to get his team to consistently match that effort on the road, Indiana could be force to be reckoned with later this year.