INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --The Indiana Pacers are coming off a fourth-quarter letdown against the Philadelphia 76ers and will aim to bounce-back on Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Both teams will be without at least one key player in this game. Jaren Jackson Jr. remains sidelined as he recovers from left knee meniscus surgery. Caris LeVert and TJ Warren both will be out for the foreseeable future with long-term recoveries.
There is still no shortage of talent for both teams to work with. Not having key players has made things difficult, but neither team has managed to let it get in the way of staying afloat. The Pacers and Grizzlies each rank fifth in their respective conference's standings.
Here are the particulars on Sunday night's game:
- Who: Indiana Pacers (11-9) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (9-6)
- When: 8 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Feb. 2.
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Latest Line: The Pacers are considered a 6.5-point favorite as of 12:30 p.m. ET, according to BetMGM.
- Standings: The Pacers currently rank fifth in the Eastern Conference and trail the first-place Philadelphia 76ers by 3.5 games. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies also are fifth in their respective conference and are behind the first-place Los Angeles Clippers by 4.0 games.
- Series history: Indiana leads the all-time series, 30-18.
- Last meeting: Malcolm Brogdon with 19 points, six rebounds, and nine assists en route to a 117-104 win over the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum on Dec. 2, 2019. Domantas Sabonis nearly had a triple double with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists.
- Projected Grizzlies starters: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr.
- Projected Pacers starters: Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.
- TV: FOX Sports Indiana.
- Announcers: Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
- Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Here are three things to watch in this game:
1. Slowing Down Ja Morant
When it comes to matching up with the Grizzlies, the top priority for the Pacers will be to try to slow down Ja Morant. So far, he is having a true All-Star caliber season -- posting averages of 20.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists in just 27.9 minutes.
Where Morant does a lot of his damage offensively is in pick-and-roll situations as 65.2% of his overall offensive possessions come in this form. He is producing 1.215 points per possession (PPP) and that trails only Kawhi Leonard and Monte Morris among the 80 players who have recorded at least 100 pick-and-roll plays.
As a whole, the Grizzlies lack much for strengths offensively outside of Morant, especially while Jaren Jackson Jr. is sidelined. Outside of pick-and-roll related sequences, Memphis ranks 'average' or 'below average' in each of their other play types with a frequency above 5%.
If the Pacers can keep Morant from putting together an explosive performance, then Indiana's defense will likely done enough to give them a chance to win. However, the other end of the floor could be the greater challenge.
2. Execution Against An Elite Defense
It's clear the Grizzlies have struggled to achieve much success offensively to start this season. Despite that fact, Memphis has managed to overcome much of that with their strong defensive execution.
In 15 games, the Grizzlies are allowing opposing teams to produce just 0.955 PPP on overall defensive possessions -- trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers (0.953 PPP) and Houston Rockets (0.954 PPP). Specifically in the half-court, Memphis is allowing an NBA-best 0.918 PPP on half-court possessions.
It will be fascinating to see if the Pacers can manage to keep their turnover volume at a satisfactory level after previously struggling in that area. The Grizzlies force the third highest rate of turnovers defensively, so it will be a great test for Indiana.
There aren't many weaknesses the Grizzlies have defensively but there are a few areas that sorely stick out. No team is giving up more points per possession than Memphis in roll man sequences (1.355 PPP) and they are allowing 1.093 PPP (28th) in handoffs.
3. Bounce Back Coming?
It's difficult to put into words the level of momentum swing that was achieved during the Pacers' loss to the 76ers on Sunday. Indiana gained a game-high 20-point lead late in the third quarter but then allowed a 21-2 run in the fourth-quarter.
Entering this matchup, the Pacers are facing a two-game losing streak and have lost five of their previous eight games since their Jan. 16 matchup with the Suns was postponed. During this period, Indiana has posted just a 110.1 offensive rating (18th), 114.9 defensive rating (T-23rd), and -4.8 net rating (23rd).
The Pacers need to get back on track and being able to take down a very solid Grizzlies team would be a real start. Experiencing a loss would extend their losing streak to three-in-a-row and put them in danger of soon being passed up in the Eastern Conference standings.
It seems as though this matchup could be an inflection point of sorts for the Pacers. Managing to snap a recent slide could be a critical element in establishing momentum going forward. Failing to do so could start to raise questions.