When: Monday, November 11th, 6:00 PM CST
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Pacers forward Paul George told me plain and simple at all-star weekend that playing the Grizzlies last year was a “slugfest.” The Grizz may have been a tad less “grind” of late, but if there’s any team that leaves its opponent no choice but to put its “grind” face on, it’s the Indiana Pacers. That image above looks like a brutal collision, which is what I fully expect to see of these teams, literally and figuratively speaking, tonight. The Grizzlies storm into this matchup looking to carry over the newfound swagger that they walloped Golden State with, but the Pacers multiply that swagger ten-fold as the only undefeated team left standing, at 7-0.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs George Hill
This one’s always fun because of the history between the two. Hill came into the league as a glorified combo guard, but has dramatically improved his point guard skills since relocating to Indiana. He’s been slowed by a sore hip in the early-going this year, but his stats have not reflected any significant downturn. Conley has been playing out of his mind, doing everything that we have become accustomed to seeing out of him, while getting to the line at an increased rate and shooting 52% from the field. Once his 3-ball starts falling with regularity again, look out!
Tony Allen vs Lance Stephenson
It’s a toss-up between Stephenson and Paul George, when evaluating which player’s outlook has benefit the most from Danny Granger’s basketball inactivity. Of course, George has seen his profile evolve into one of the biggest tickets in the league, but a solid case can be made for Stephenson as the lead beneficiary. Stephenson took a career average of under 3 points per game into last season, and came out of it logging 8.8. This season, he’s ramped it up even further as a multi-faceted threat, bringing averages of 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per contest into tonight’s game.
Tayshaun Prince vs Paul George
Tayshaun has been a much targeted scapegoat for the Grizzlies’ offensive hiccups, but as broken down as he looks at times, he’s still better than he gets credit for. Paul George, on the other hand, is in the process of becoming one of the next megastars, and his stock will continue its meteoric rise until his team begins to slow down.
Zach Randolph vs David West
I always tease that the Pacers are the “Grizzlies East,” and that comparison starts and ends on the frontline. With his outburst against the Warriors, Zbo proved to Grizznation that when he’s in his zone he can still drive that Grit ‘n’ Grind train from time to time. Similar to Randolph, David West is a guy whose most prolific days might be behind him, but is still finding ways to contribute night in and night out for his team. Indiana native, Randolph, likes to put on for his hometown, so look for him to be ultra aggressive tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Roy Hibbert
Gasol finally had a “Marc-like” night against Golden State on Saturday, exhibited by his line of 18 points on 50+% shooting with 7 boards, 3 blocks, and most importantly, effective defensive rotations. However, he’s running into the behemoth that is Roy Hibbert, who is patrolling the paint like a man on a mission, swatting shots back at a 4.3 per game rate so far. Offensively, he hasn’t finished as well at the rim as one would like (47.8%) in 2013, where Marc has done fairly well to this point (61.3%), but at home and given the way the Pacers have been holding it down…
Mike Thriller! 4-5 from the land of plenty on Saturday, which his just music to my ears. The bigs were effective in spotting Miller camping out beyond the arc during post-ups, cluing us into just how awesome it is to have a flamethrower waiting to “let it fly.” With a knee sprain keeping Jerryd Bayless sidelined, Coach Joerger was forced to scale back on the rotation against the Warriors, which actually worked out as beneficial for guys like Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes who have been champing at the bit to get some court time. The Pacers are getting efficient production out of Luis Scola so far, but he’s not playing all that much time, and the rest of the bench is suspect. Going to do the unthinkable and give the Grizz the thunbs up.