Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Grizzlies


Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Grizzlies

SCOUTING THE PACERS: With his team riding a six-game losing streak and facing five games in seven nights, all against teams with winning records, Frank Vogel went out on a limb. He told the players he thought they could go 4-1. It seemed outlandish at the time but it could happen with a victory tonight in Memphis. Their 115-108 overtime victory against the Bulls Friday followed two conquests of the Knicks and a loss in Boston. As a result, the Pacers (30-39) have a 1½ game lead over Charlotte for eighth place in the East. The Pacers have come on strong since Vogel changed the starting lineup, inserting Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George. Indiana's starters have outscored their counterparts 395-356 in the last five games, averaging 79 points per game, up nearly 13 from the season average. Hansbrough has been instrumental in that, scoring at least 20 points in six of the last seven games while averaging 23.6 on 58 percent shooting. George has contributed at the defensive end with 17 steals in the last eight games (2.13) and has at least one steal in the last 11 games.

SCOUTING THE GRIZZLIES: The Grizzlies (37-32) have prevailed by an average of 12.7 points in three consecutive wins over Indiana, including 104-90 at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 26. Rudy Gay scored 30 points for Memphis, but hasn't played since Feb. 15 because of an injured left shoulder. The Pacers will try to take advantage of his absence to try and avoid a third consecutive defeat at the FedExForum. Randolph had 26 points and 16 rebounds in the previous matchup there, a 107-94 win on Dec. 18, 2009. Indiana will try to limit the Grizzlies' big man while trying to record only its second win in eight road games this month. Memphis, meanwhile, has split its past four at home, but scored at least 105 in each of its last three. The Grizzlies are shooting 53.0 percent over that stretch. Memphis will play eight of its final 13 games at home, but could use a strong defensive performance against Danny Granger, who scored 29 points in the December loss. Granger has averaged 24.5 points in his last two games in Memphis, but sat out the previous game there with a torn plantar fascia.

KEY MATCHUP: Whatever uniform he has worn, Randolph has proved a vexing matchup for the Pacers. But that was before Hansbrough's emergence as a force at power forward.

QUOTE MARKS: "I told our guys we need to go 4-1 (this week) with a straight face. I honestly felt we grew in the Minnesota game defensively, grew in the Toronto game offensively. We were in a funk teams go through, every team goes through at some point in the season. I felt like we were on the way out. I said before the New York game that I was encouraged by how our guys responded and we were ready to come out of it. I told them we have 5 games this week all with winning records and there is no reason we cant go 4-1. We have one more game (tonight) to try and do that." -- Vogel

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Mike Dunleavy (broken left thumb) is out. For the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol (right ankle) and Jason Williams (sore lower back) are day-to-day, while Rudy Gay (left shoulder) and Xavier Henry (right knee) are out.

BROADCAST INFO: The 8 p.m. radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere, with Kevin Lee reporting.

INTERACT: You can follow the Twitters posts of experts on the scene with our live Twitter Blog, which begins at tipoff.