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Memphis out-paces Indiana

In a battle between the current eighth-seeded teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference, nobody appeared more playoff-ready than the 17,013 boisterous fans at FedExForum Saturday night.

Though, to be fair, the home team gave them plenty of opportunities for timely cheers and standing ovations.

The Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Indiana Pacers to gain unofficial eighth-seed supremacy in a wire-to-wire 99-78 win, giving Memphis a series sweep over Indiana. Thanks to a 17-2 start—including 10 points on the fast break—the Grizzlies were able to keep their distance from a Pacers team coming off a big overtime win the previous night. Memphis’ lead swelled to 25 in the first half and never fell below double figures for the duration of the second.

And to nobody’s surprise, Tony Allen was once again a catalyst in an energetic and defensively-sound win.

“It’s bigger than me,” said a humble Allen. “I’m looking at the standings everyday for where we need to be. I’m just looking to do whatever I can to help, whether it is passing out water, giving somebody a towel, congratulating someone or giving them some advice about the previous play or the next play.

“I just want to be able to help in any way possible.”

Allen did a little more than pass out water and towels on Saturday. The guard’s night included a game-high 19 points, career-high 11 rebounds, season-high six assists and a season-high tying six steals, leading to a raucous and infectious chant of “Tony” in the game’s closing minutes.

With cheers and high-fives prevalent throughout the building, the Grizzlies used their hands to force 20 Pacers miscues, totaling 16 thefts and nine blocks and scoring 23 points off Indiana errors.

“I think we just didn’t understand how aggressive they are before we even started this game,” said Pacers rookie Paul George. “We underestimated the ability of what their hands can do.”

Mike Conley swiped four steals of his own to go with 17 points and nine assists as the point guard played a particularly aggressive game on the offensive end, as evidenced by his game-high 18 field goal attempts. Conley’s aggression in driving to the bucket, along with another exceptional night down-low from Zach Randolph, gave the Grizzlies another massive advantage in the paint, 68-24.

Perhaps drowned out by the crowd noise, Randolph recorded 17 points and 10 rebounds for a quiet double-double, if there is such a thing. The Marion, Ind. native shot 8-of-11 from the field and the rest of the Grizzlies followed suit, outshooting the Pacers .518 to .356 on the night.

After Memphis’ quick start, Indiana was able to get back within seven to end the first frame at 27-20. From there, the Grizzlies rattled off a 29-11 spurt to take their largest lead of the game at 56-31 with 1:35 left in the half.

“We were very focused,” said Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins. “I knew if we could come out and jump them early, then we could take control of the game, and we did that.”

With 12 games remaining in the 2010-11 regular season and a plethora of hungry teams close behind them, the Grizzlies know it will take that same focus the rest of the way to earn their first playoff berth since 2005-06.

“We need it each game,” said Allen. If we can continue with the focus we had today and come out with a lot of energy, we can do something special.”