The Indiana Pacers' surprising start was derailed by a long losing streak. Their surprising resurgence has ended in similar fashion.
The Pacers look to snap a four-game losing streak and move back closer to .500 on Wednesday when they host the struggling Memphis Grizzlies, who have never won in Indianapolis.
Indiana (15-17) opened the season with three straight wins, but the hot start faded quickly as the Pacers dropped their next six games. They rebounded by going 12-7 between Nov. 17 and Dec. 22, but have lost their last four contests despite having a second-half lead in three of those games.
"In the NBA, everybody makes a run," Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy said. "Why teams have been making runs on us at the end of games is beyond me. Once again, we need to do a better job closing out games."
The Pacers led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter against Charlotte on Monday, but lost 107-103 in overtime. It marked the sixth time Indiana has squandered a double-digit advantage.
"We've got to figure out a way to change that and hold onto games if we plan on being a good team," said Jermaine O'Neal, who had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. "Man, it's a tough one to swallow."
The Pacers have had no problem closing out the Grizzlies (8-22), who are winless in 11 trips to Indianapolis - the only NBA city in which they've never won.
Including a 121-111 victory in Memphis on Nov. 3, Indiana has won six of its last seven meetings with the Grizzlies to take a 20-4 advantage in the all-time series.
To finally get a win in at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Grizzlies will have to snap a five-game losing streak. They've been outscored by an average of 18.2 points during the skid, and have lost 12 of 14 games overall.
On Sunday, the Grizzlies led San Antonio by as many as 12 points, but they were outscored 38-18 in the third quarter en route to a 111-87 defeat.
"We cannot afford to have any letdowns like that," said forward Pau Gasol, who led the team with 19 points.
The Grizzlies have given up an average of 110.0 points in their last three games and rank 29th in the league in scoring defense at 105.5 per contest.
"When we have a lead we think things are going to be easy. I think when you're losing you cannot give up," Memphis center Darko Milicic said. "We have to get together as a team and play much better defense."
Milicic will have his hands full when he meets O'Neal, who's averaging 21.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in his last three games. O'Neal has recorded back-to-back games with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists after failing to do so his first 24 contests.
The Pacers, though, will likely be without starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley for the third straight game. Tinsley, averaging 13.8 points and a career-best 8.7 assists, is nursing a strained left hamstring.
Dunleavy led the Pacers with 27 points and eight rebounds in Indiana's first game against Memphis, while Mike Miller had 14 points, 10 boards and seven assists to lead the Grizzlies.
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