MEMPHIS — One team struggling on defense meets another that is turned cold on offense when the Memphis Grizzlies open a four-game homestand Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers.
The Grizzlies have prevailed in six of their last seven meetings with their Eastern Conference opponent, including four straight at home.
Memphis captured a 110-97 victory last March over Indiana in their most recent head-to-head, one that squared the season series at 1-1 after the Pacers had secured a 102-92 home win a month earlier.
The Grizzlies opened this season 4-2 mostly on the strength of a defense that allowed only two of their first six opponents to reach 100 points.
But they’ve since slipped on that end of the floor — giving up 100 or more in six of seven games and losing five times in that stretch.
They are coming off a 2-3 road trip that culminated in 111-96 and 110-103 losses at Houston and Milwaukee, respectively.
The Grizzlies allowed 46.7 percent shooting overall and 41.8 percent on 3-pointers in the two defeats, getting outscored 84-51 from beyond the arc.
One issue has been the health of the club’s top perimeter defender, point guard Mike Conley, who has been dealing with a painful Achilles.
“It’s all mental. This game is mental,” Conley insisted. “I’ve been through it, the ups and downs, and I always come out on top. It’s no different this time. I’m just going to take it day by day and keep improving. We just need to figure it out. It’s tough.”
In the Pacers, the Grizzlies will see another team seeking answers to recent problems. They’ve lost five of their last six.
They began the season as one of the league’s highest scoring teams, topping 100 points in eight of 11 games, before being held to 97 and 95, respectively, in recent losses to Detroit and Houston.
Like the Grizzlies, who for the first time in almost a decade began a season without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, the Pacers remain in transition after having dealt Paul George in the off-season.
Newcomer Domantas Sabonis has been impressive, leading the club in rebounding at 9.8 per game while also averaging 13.3 points, but he hasn’t started any of the last five games. In fact, his minutes average (26.5) is only sixth on the club.
“We still have to iron out some things,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan noted. “But that’s where we are. This is a new group, and we’re trying to find out combinations that work.”
The Pacers both shoot and allow a 47.6 percentage in field goals, which puts them near the top of the league in offense and near the bottom in defense.
The latter will have to deal with Grizzlies newcomer Tyreke Evans, who has been scoring at a historical pace off the bench in recent games.
Evans has scored at least 20 points while making at least 45 percent of his shots in each of the last six games, becoming the first NBA reserve to compile such a streak since Sarunas Marciulionis for Golden State in 1992.
Coincidentally, Marciulionis and Sabonis’ father, Arvydas, were Olympic teammates for Lithuania.