Lance Stephenson recorded his first career triple-double, Paul George came through with another big night and the Indiana Pacers extended the best start in franchise history with a 95-79 drubbing of the Memphis Grizzlies at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Stephenson tallied 13 points, matched a career high with 11 rebounds and dished out a personal-best 12 assists in a superb all-around effort that catapulted the Pacers to 8-0 on the young season.
George, named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier Monday, justified that selection by racking up a game-high 23 points along with seven boards. Four other Indiana players scored in double figures, and the Pacers outrebounded the Grizzlies by a 45-32 overall margin while pulling away in the second half.
Marc Gasol paced Memphis, which has alternated losses and wins in each of their first seven outings, with 15 points. Zach Randolph finished with 12 in the setback.
This matchup between two teams that reached the finals of their respective conferences last season was no contest at all, with the red-hot Pacers leading virtually start-to-finish to remain the NBA’s lone remaining unbeaten. Indiana closed out the first quarter with a 6-0 run and held the Grizzlies to a 27.3 percent shooting percentage for the period in building an early 23-16 advantage.
The margin grew to double digits just over a minute into the second, when Stephenson’s bucket from beyond the arc put the Pacers up by a 28-18 count, and went to 12 midway through the frame after Ian Mahinmi converted a conventional 3-point play for a 38-26 score. The Grizzlies managed to close the gap some prior to the break, with Gasol sinking 1-of-2 foul shots with under a second left to cap an 11-6 swing that brought Memphis within 46-39 at intermission.
Memphis would get no closer, however. Stephenson buried another triple to begin the second half, while George Hill netted five points during an 8-2 spurt later in the third quarter that staked Indiana to a 61-46 lead. The Pacers went into the fourth quarter up comfortably at 72-55, then ripped off eight consecutive points to begin the stanza to create a 25-point differential with under 10 1/2 minutes to go. Indiana was ahead by at least 15 the rest of the way.
Notes: Indiana is the first team to start out 8-0 since the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans each did so in 2010-11 … Memphis forward Quincy Pondexter did not return after breaking his nose in the second quarter … Hill ended with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting … The Grizzlies have lost three straight on the road to begin a season for the first time since 2009-10 … Memphis rookie Nick Calathes, serving as the backup point guard with Jerryd Bayless (knee) sidelined, set career highs with six assists and 25 minutes played.
“Obviously Lance was a force out there. The most impressive thing about it was only one turnover. He’s come a long way. He had a lot to learn about professionalism and how to work. He’s playing within himself and playing with efficiency. Winning basketball games is about confidence, and he gives us an edge, a swagger. It has always been his most natural gift, to pass the ball. He has the ability to see the next pass like some of the great passers in the game. Everything we’re shooting for is attainable, but we’ve got a long way to go, a lot of work to do. I was happy we were able to limit our turnovers to 13 with just three in the second half. It was probably our most complete game. It’s really confidence, particularly defensive confidence. That’s an encouraging thing and it rolls over to our offense.”
“We came out ready to play, executed well early, got the early lead and never gave it up. We fed off of Lance (Stephenson) all evening. He’s been playing extremely well, making good decisions, and maturing. We were talking a little bit before he got his 10th assist and we both celebrated on it. We are growing. We are not looking at this 8-0 start. We want to enjoy it, but we must let our strengths continue to lead us to victory. Everybody helps and everybody is doing their job.”
“It’s defense, defense, defense. We just controlled the pace, limited them to one shot, because they’re pretty up there in offensive rebounds. (On Lance Stephenson’s triple double) Kudos to Lance. Let’s see if he can keep that up. I know he can keep that up. I’m happy for him. (On his own blocks and keeping the ball in play) I’m just getting lucky, to tell you the truth…I just try to be as solid as I can on defense and erase any mistakes at the rim.”
“I’m just being aggressive, playing like I normally play. We played good as a team and made smart plays and got the W. We locked in together, everybody on the same page. Everybody’s playing great defense, everybody is just playing together. (On the crowd’s reaction to his triple-double) It means a lot. I love Indiana. Everybody is together. It just feels great this year. Everybody’s playing as a unit and everybody is playing smart together. (On his own game) I think I’m more aggressive. I’m getting everybody involved and I’m making shots. When I’m hitting and creating for others we play great.”