Pacers tumble in close loss to Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Strong play by the Memphis reserves early in the fourth period gave the Grizzlies a burst of energy down the stretch.

The Memphis bench stayed even with the
Indiana Pacers during the early stages of the final period, giving the
Grizzlies starters the extra stamina for a 98-92 victory on Friday

Rudy Gay scored 21 points, while Marreese Speights added a season-high 19 points and nine rebounds to lead the Grizzlies.

But the postgame accolades went to the Memphis reserves.

Mike Conley, who along with Marc Gasol
had 15 points apiece, said the bench play gave the Memphis starters
better legs as they pulled away at the end.

“They let me and Marc rest until basically the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter,” Conley said.

“They actually extended the lead when
they were out there. That’s what we need out of them. When you have that
kind of output from the bench, that makes it easier on the starters
coming in to sustain that lead.”

O.J. Mayo added 13 points for Memphis, which won its second straight.

David West led the Pacers with 22
points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field and 13 rebounds. Danny Granger
had 19 points, and Dahntay Jones added 10 as a reserve, primarily on 7
of 8 from the free throw line.

The teams were tied at 86 with 4:30
left, but Memphis outscored Indiana 12-6 the rest of the way, including
converting 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch.

Conley credited the extra rest the starters got before entering in the fourth quarter.

“It gives you a little more energy and
you are able to play harder for a longer period of time,” Conley said.
“The most important time is the fourth quarter. The last 4 or 5 minutes
of the game is where it’s crunch time and you have to make the right
decisions. Having your legs is a big part of that.”

Indiana controlled the boards 48-37, including 16 offensive rebounds, helping the Pacers to 17 second-chance points.

But Indiana committed 15 turnovers and
shot only 39 percent, including Paul George missing 11 of his 13 shots,
and Roy Hibbert going 1 for 7.

“The biggest difference was the
willingness to win,” Pacers guard Darren Collison said. “They had a
little bit more will than us. They wanted it more, and that’s something
we just can’t have.”

The halftime score of 47-47 was representative of a first half that had 11 lead changes and 12 ties.

Memphis held an early seven-point lead,
but once the Pacers pulled back into it, the game settled into a tight
matchup. The Pacers’ biggest lead of the half was five points.

Granger had 11 points and West 10 to
lead Indiana. Speights had 14 points, hitting 6 of his 8 shots in the
half, finishing the night 8 of 13.

As he has in recent games, Speights, acquired from Philadelphia in a three-team trade Jan. 4, provided the early spark.

“I know all the games are going to
start off like that,” Speights said. “I just go out there with a little
more energy and try to get on the boards early and start the momentum.”

Neither team shot particularly well,
and the Pacers might have extended their advantage a little more in the
half, but they were an uncharacteristic 11 of 21 from the free throw
line, part of Indiana going 26 for 37.

“I think that was a big reason we lost
the game honestly,” Granger said of the missed first-half free throws.
“… We should have been up eight or seven or six or five going into
halftime if we make half of those.”

Eight turnovers compared to three by Memphis didn’t help Indiana either.

West already had nine rebounds and
George eight rebounds as the Pacers held a 28-19 advantage on the glass,
including nine offensive rebounds leading to 12 second-chance points.

The game remained close in the third was tied at 73 heading into the fourth.

The teams were still even at 77 when
Memphis scored nine unanswered points for its biggest lead of the game,
86-77 on Gay’s 3-point play with 7:04 left.

Indiana answered with a 9-0 run to make it 86-86, the 17th tie of the game.

“It took defense. It’s always about
defense,” Gasol said. “We had key stops and key rebounds and we were
able to make shots and our free throws.”

NOTES: The game featured of matchup of
All-Star centers Gasol and Hibbert, both of whom were selected as
reserves. … Memphis G Tony Allen returned after missing three games
with a sore hip and knee. … Pacers F/C Jeff Foster returned after
missing 13 games with a sore lower back. … Memphis F Dante Cunningham
was ejected in the third quarter after getting a pair of technicals for
arguing two different foul calls. … Memphis has four straight wins in
the series. … The loss was the first time this season Indiana has lost
consecutive games. The Pacers were coming off a 97-87 loss at Atlanta
on Wednesday.