Memphis (TSN) – The top two defenses in the NBA were on full display Monday in the annual Martin Luther King Day game.
George Hill split a pair of go-ahead free throws with 1.4 seconds left in the Indiana Pacers’ 82-81 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rudy Gay banked in a difficult shot at the top of the key over the outstretched arms of Paul George following a timeout, but Gay didn’t get the shot off in time.
Indiana allowed 89.3 points per game coming in, while Memphis gave up 89.6 points per contest. The tilt featured 19 lead changes and 10 ties.
George was an assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine helpers for the Pacers, who have won 16 of their last 21 games since a sluggish start.
Wayne Ellington had 17 points off the bench to lead Memphis, which has dropped four of its last six contests.
After Mike Conley’s 3-pointer from the right wing capped a 9-2 spurt for a one-point Memphis edge, George came back with a triple from the left wing to put the Pacers back on top, 81-79, with 1:42 to go.
Hill lost the ball out of bounds at the other end and the Grizzlies needed four tries before tying the score.
Allen’s layup was blocked by Roy Hibbert, but got his own rebound before Gay missed a fallaway jumper that was well defended by George. Allen again snatched the board, but Conley’s driving layup was blocked, again by Hibbert.
Hibbert corralled the ball momentarily, but Allen stripped him from behind and fed Zach Randolph for a layup and an 81-81 deadlock with 10.5 ticks remaining.
Hill, though, was fouled by Conley on a drive to the bucket on Indiana’s ensuing possession. He misfired on his first foul shot before swishing the second.
Memphis took a slim 27-26 advantage after a quarter of play, but Indiana outscored the hosts 17-12 in the second before taking a 43-39 cushion into the break.
The Pacers led 65-63 after three.
Notes: Indiana turned the ball over 20 times, which led to 18 points … Indiana’s David West had five blocks and Hibbert added four swats … Hill finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists … Indiana snapped a four-game losing streak in Memphis.
“We told our guys before this trip the other day that we need to find a way to be a quality team on the road, and this team has the best record in the league. Our guys rose to the challenge and broke the challenge and came up big. It was a great team win, a great balance. Our bench was strong and our offense is coming. Forty-nine percent against that team, one of the best defensive teams in the league, is pretty impressive. Obviously, too many turnovers but happy to get the W [win].
“I think you got two teams that are successful because they both play extremely hard, and that team plays with great heart and effort. So do we most of the time. We made a lot of plays down the stretch, some awesome plays. As a day, it was a fun game. That game was something else. Watching them scratch and claw, just happy we got the win.
On the team’s performance: “We work every day. We talk every day about the need for offensive growth, and there is a need. We understand that we have a defense that we feel like we can compete for a championship with, but we are going to be easy out if our offense doesn’t start to come. We all understand that. So we are working on trusting the pass more, playing faster and just fine tuning all the details that go into fine execution.”
On Paul George’s three-pointer to give them the lead: “That was an answer back three. I think [Mike] Conley hit one right before that, and that is competitive spirit rising up. It was a huge play.”
On the game: “We knew this was going to be a tough and fun game. I just thought that we made more plays than they did down the stretch and were able to come out on top.”
On this road trip: “This is one of the tougher road trips that we will take. We have four tough environments to win in. We wanted to get off to a good start headed out west. We knew how hard Memphis is to beat in this building. They are one of the top five or six teams in the whole league, so this is a good confidence builder for us.”
On the Grizzlies’ last shot: “We have confidence in Paul (George) off the top guarding just about anybody in the league. He did a good job staying down and making him (Rudy Gay) take an extra dribble. We knew Rudy was going to get that ball. I thought PG did a good job of not giving him space and making him take that extra dribble. It didn’t give him enough space, or time, to get that shot off.”
On being in Memphis on Dr. Martin Luther King holiday: “This is a time where people have an opportunity to reflect on certain sacrifices that Dr. Martin Luther King made and his example of leadership and courage. It is something that rings true today in our society. What we do does not hold a can of water to what someone like him and others have accomplished in their lives. We try to keep that in perspective and understand that every opportunity we have to pay homage to an ancestor we do so.”
On the playing the Grizzlies: “We are pretty much identical. We are number one and they are number two in defense. Offensively, we play the same style. Me and Rudy Gay are similar. Pretty much all of our lineup has a lot of similarities.”
On guarding Rudy on the final shot: “I was prepared for the play called to go to Rudy. I just had to make sure I didn’t let him get to his right hand. That was pretty much the time. I jammed that right hand and made him go the other way.”