After standing pat, Pacers start stretch run vs. Grizzlies

Coach Nate McMillan is looking for ways to make the Pacers better.
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INDIANAPOLIS — Trade speculation surrounded the Pacers all week, but Larry Bird and company ended up staying pat. And so it is the same Pacers team that will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in Indianapolis.

“These are my guys,” forward Paul George told pacers.com. “We’re going to work to get ready for the second half of the season.”

Indiana (29-28) desperately needed the break, having lost six straight games before the time off. They’re hoping to get starter Thaddeus Young back Friday night. He went through 5-on-5 drills in practice Thursday and is listed as questionable with a sprained left wrist. His backup, Lavoy Allen, is also questionable with a sore right knee.

“We have to be better,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. “We lost six games. Of course, it was against some tough teams, but it showed us we are not where we need to be. Our focus is on getting better and getting ourselves prepared for Memphis.”

The Pacers gave up 116 points per game during their six-game losing streak. Their tough recent schedule won’t be letting up anytime soon. After playing the Grizzlies, they’ll hit the road for five straight games, including trips to Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta.

Indiana has struggled rebounding, ranking 28th in the NBA. The Grizzlies are ninth.

Memphis (34-24) also stood pat at the trade deadline. The Grizzlies have won seven of their last 10 games and look to climb higher in the Western Conference standings. They’ve held their own on the road this season (16-13).

“Overall, I’m really happy with this team,” coach David Fizdale told The Commercial Appeal. “We’ve shown that we can compete with the best. With what we have, if we continue to build chemistry and guys get stronger, I’d like to see where this team ends up.”

Their first challenge will be against a Pacers team that is 20-10 at home. “We know they’re a capable team,” Mike Conley told nba.com. “We have to be prepared for them because they’re capable of being one of the elite teams in the East. We have to make sure we have our minds right and are focused.”

The Grizzlies have struggled against the Eastern Conference this season, going 10-11. By comparison, they are 24-13 against the West.

Memphis has had some struggles on offense (20th in offensive rating), while the Pacers have struggled on defense (19th in defensive rating).

There will be a lot of Indiana connections for this game. For the Pacers, Jeff Teague and Glenn Robinson III grew up in Indiana, while Mike Conley Jr. and Zach Randolph are hometown guys themselves.

It will be the first meeting between these teams this season. They will play again in Memphis on March 29. The Grizzlies have won the last five matchups against the Pacers.