The Pacers, playing their fifth game in seven days, recorded a relatively easy 95-79 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies last night. The Grizzlies were out-hustled and out-muscled all night. Paul George finished with 23 points, becoming just the third player in NBA history to score at least 20 points in each of his team’s first 8 games (all victories) according to Elias. The last to do it was Dave Bing for the Pistons, 43 years ago.
Paul scored, Roy Hibbert blocked five more shots, but the star Monday night was Lance Stephenson. “Born Ready” recorded his first career triple-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. The crowd responded with a standing ovation, and Lance relished every minute of it. After the game he signed his And-1 sneakers…writing the words “Triple Double” and his stat line.
The Pacers are on a roll and are showing no signs of slowing down. They’re near the top of every defensive statistical category, they have THE best wing and interior defenders in the NBA, AND they’re finding a rhythm offensively.
So how do you beat this team?
For one, you have to play hard for 48 minutes. The Pacers are battling for loose balls, they’re active on the glass, and they’ve been the more physical team in every game they’ve played this season. If you can’t match Indiana’s physicality, you have no chance.
Secondly, you have to get Roy Hibbert or Paul George in foul trouble. This is a prayer and not necessarily a strategy. Roy and Paul do a terrific job of defending without fouling. Because of that, they’re able to play extended minutes – which spells doom for opposing teams seeking easy looks.
And lastly…you have to shoot lights out from the perimeter. I’m talking about an MJ Shoulder Shrug kind of night. This will likely have to happen on the opposing team’s home floor…in front of a raucous crowd. That’s where a hot shooting night has the best chance of being sustained over the course of four quarters. A home crowd for a hot shooting team is like a strong breeze in a forest fire….
The Pacers will come down to Earth eventually. They’ll experience those inevitable evenings where fatigue or a cold shooting night will get the best of them. They’ll face opponents down the road who will play with a greater sense of urgency, or will have lucky bounces, and breaks. It’s going to happen. But in the meantime, it’s fair to wonder when this Indiana team will experience their first loss.
Indiana will have three days rest before hosting the 2-and-3 Milwaukee Bucks Friday night. Saturday they’ll face the Chicago Bulls in their toughest test yet, though Derrick Rose is currently nursing a sore hamstring. Following that, the Pacers have dates at New York and Boston, home against Philadelphia and Minnesota, and then a road game against Charlotte. While they don’t want to get ahead of themselves…victories through the matchup with the Bobcats on November 27th would mean a 15-and-0 start…matching the ’48 Washington Capitals and the ’93 Houston Rockets for the best start in NBA history.