Indiana Pacers at Memphis Grizzlies (-1.5, 185 o/u)
For all intents and purposes, the playoffs begin tonight for the Indiana Pacers (38-43, 15-2 away) when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies (54-27, 30-10 home) at the FedEx Forum (9:30 p.m. Eastern).
Indiana is currently one game up on Brooklyn for the last playoff berth in the East with one game left for each squad. But Nets – who host the 25-56 Magic tonight – would own the tiebreaker if the teams finish with identical records. Ergo, the Pacers season will likely come to an abrupt halt tonight unless they manage to down the Grizz.
Indiana helped its own cause last night, trumping the Wizards 99-95 in double overtime behind 25 points from C.J. Miles and 24 from George Hill. The win was the sixth in a row for the surging Pacers, who trailed for most of the game.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel praised his team’s hustle after the crucial win.
“Just all-out heart, and determination, and will, and perseverance, and not quitting,” said Vogel. “We got down so many times and had so many opportunities to give in. They just persevered through it.”
The recently returned Paul George continued his slow but steady comeback, hitting a key jump shot to tie the game in the first overtime period.
Unfortunately for George and company, they will face a Grizzlies team still fighting for position in the Western Conference playoff picture. Memphis currently sits sixth, but is still mathematically alive for the No. 5 seed. Indiana is catching a bit of a break, though, as the injury bug has hit the Grizzlies recently.
Stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are both questionable for tonight’s game with ankle injuries, while veteran guard Tony Allen (hamstring) will sit.
The shorthanded Grizzlies have lost two straight, including a 111-107 setback at Golden State on Monday. The final score makes the game look closer than it actually was. Memphis needed a 41-point fourth quarter to trim the deficit to four by game’s end. They were outscored 93-66 through the first 36 minutes.
“We didn’t compete,” said Gasol. “I don’t know if everybody realized how important that game was.”
Despite the fact the Pacers are playing their best ball of the year, they’re still just 15-25 on the road versus Memphis’ 30-10 home mark. Take the Grizzlies and slim 1.5-point spread.
(Photo credit: Sean Davis (flickr) “Mike Conley” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)