(AP) — The Indiana Pacers still haven’t lost back-to-back games, but they also haven’t been playing at their best in the last week, particularly on defense.
The Pacers will try to bounce back from their second defeat in three games when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
Indiana has the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference partly because it has yet to have a losing streak.
The Pacers (17-8) nearly saw that accomplishment end this week. After losing 85-81 to Orlando on Saturday, they blew a 21-point lead in the second half against Utah on Tuesday but pulled out a 104-99 victory.
Indiana gave up 49 points over the final 20 minutes of that game and suffered another extended defensive lapse Wednesday in a 97-87 road loss to Atlanta. The Hawks scored 32 points in the first quarter and were ahead by as many as 21 in a first half during which they shot 54.5 percent.
The Pacers gave up a season-high 28 fast-break points and scored only 11.
“We fought like dogs in the second half to come back and compete and make it a game, but they were too much,” coach Frank Vogel said. “You’re not going to win these games giving up 28 fast-break points, period.”
Vogel’s team also had problems on the glass. Roy Hibbert had 13 rebounds, but the Pacers had a season-low 33 and were outrebounded by 12. They’re among the league leaders with 44.1 per game.
Danny Granger scored a team-high 21 points but had another tough shooting night, going 5 for 17. Granger, averaging 18.3 points, has shot below 30.0 percent in three of the last four games.
Indiana has dropped four in a row to the Grizzlies, but Zach Randolph had double-doubles in all of those games and the Memphis forward is currently out with a knee injury.
The Grizzlies (13-13) have struggled lately without him, losing seven of 10 and scoring fewer than 90 points in three straight. They did snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday with an 85-80 win over Minnesota, though the Timberwolves were missing star forward Kevin Love.
Quincy Pondexter got a second straight start in place of the injured Tony Allen (hip, knee), and the second-year swingman scored a career-high 17 points. He went scoreless in 21 minutes in his start against San Antonio on Monday.
“Coach believed in me enough to do it,” Pondexter said. “He could have given it to a lot of other players. For some reason, he believed in me, and I can’t let him down.”
Pondexter figures to continue receiving extended playing time as coach Lionel Hollins tries to manage his players’ minutes through injuries and the condensed schedule. On Wednesday, Jeremy Pargo saw his most minutes since early January while reserve Dante Cunningham played more than 26, scoring a season-high 12 points.
“Everybody has to play well, and the game has to go in a way that we feel comfortable,” Hollins said of future rotations. “I’m not going to just take everybody out of the game, but I acknowledge that our guys are playing a lot of minutes.”
The Grizzlies, in the middle of a five-game homestand, are 8-4 at FedEx Forum. Indiana has lost three straight there.