After a lapse during their recent slide, the Indiana Pacers have seemingly rediscovered their elite defense.
The Memphis Grizzlies might be more concerned with Indiana’s defense with Marc Gasol possibly sidelined.
The Pacers seek a sixth win in seven games Saturday night when they visit the Grizzlies.
Indiana (51-18) endured a season-long four-game slide from March 4-March 9, but has since bounced back by winning five of six. The Pacers are limiting opponents to 90.3 points per game on 38.9 percent shooting in that stretch after giving up an average of 106.0 on 48.0 percent shooting during the losing streak.
An easier slate of games contributed to their recovery, as those five wins have come against Boston, Philadelphia (twice), Detroit and most recently a 91-79 victory Friday over Chicago, which is in second place in the Central but averages a league-low 93.2 points.
Indiana’s offense was also more efficient, tallying 27 assists against the Bulls after totaling 25 over its previous two games. The Pacers, who are 10-13 when they record 18 or fewer assists, averaged 17.5 during their four-game skid.
"In the NBA, a week looks like an eternity, so it feels like we haven’t been playing great in a while," said Luis Scola, who scored 19 on 9-of-12 shooting after totaling 20 points over his previous four games. "We needed it. We needed the confidence and we also needed the win."
Paul George remains in a bit of a shooting slump, though he had 12 rebounds and 10 assists in addition to 10 points against Chicago for his second career triple-double. He’s 11 for 44 from the floor over his last three games.
The Grizzlies (40-28) led at Miami by seven with 4:08 remaining before allowing 11 consecutive points en route to a 91-86 defeat. The bigger loss may have been that of Gasol, who left in the third injury with an ankle injury and is day-to-day.
"He got hurt and then the game kind of changed," said Zach Randolph, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds.
The season changed for Memphis upon Gasol’s most recent return, as the Grizzlies’ 23 wins since Jan. 13 – when he came back from a sprained MCL – are tied with Oklahoma City for the most in the league. They went 10-13 without him from Nov. 25-Jan. 12 while allowing 98.3 points per game, compared to a 30-15 mark with him while limiting teams to 92.4 points per game.
The Pacers announced Friday that Andrew Bynum would be out indefinitely due to soreness and swelling in his right knee. He had played in just two games since signing with Indiana on Feb. 1, totaling 23 points and 19 rebounds.
After dropping five straight in the series, Indiana has won three in a row, including a 95-79 home victory on Nov. 11. George scored 23 and was 9 of 16 from the field while Lance Stephenson had 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for his first of four triple-doubles this season.
The Grizzlies have won eight straight at home and 14 of 16.