Getting Defensive: Grizzlies set to face Pacers

The NBA's top two defensive teams square off Monday afternoon when the Memphis Grizzlies welcome the Indiana Pacers to FedEx Forum.

The matinee is part of many around the NBA in honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was on Apr. 4, 1968, in Memphis, when Dr. King was assassinated and the Grizzlies will hold their 11th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Day.

The team will honor Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown for their contributions to civil and human rights.

On the court, this will be a defensive war.

The Pacers rank first in the NBA in both opponents' scoring and opponents' field-goal percentage. The Grizzlies are second in the league in the first category and fifth in the second.

The Grizzlies halted a three-game losing streak over the weekend with back-to- back victories, first at home over the Sacramento Kings on Friday, then over the Chicago Bulls in overtime Saturday night in Chicago.

The Grizzlies lost the fourth quarter, 29-16, against the Bulls, but prevailed in overtime, 85-82. The score was indicative of two NBA elite defensive teams, much like what we will see on Monday afternoon.

"We expected a tough game tonight because they are one of the best defensive teams in the league," said Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. "I just wanted to have one or two more points than they did at the end."

Memphis took advantage of a gassed Bulls team that played its third straight overtime contest. Chicago was without Luol Deng and the group that got the Bulls back into the game played essentially the whole fourth quarter and extra session.

Marc Gasol led the Grizz with 19 points and eight rebounds. Zach Randolph registered his league-leading 26th double-double with 13 points and 19 boards. Rudy Gay and Conley were both in double figures.

Memphis, which is 15-5 at home, begins a four-game homestand Monday afternoon.

The Pacers start a four-game road trip against the Grizzlies and have been far less productive outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"Defense travels, that's one thing I know," said head coach Frank Vogel. "When we go into opposing buildings every night and your defense is solid, it just comes down to executing offensively."

The Pacers head to Portland, Utah and Denver after Memphis. All four teams have winnings records.

The last time out, Indiana beat the struggling Houston Rockets, 105-95, at home on Friday. The Rockets are the second-leading scoring team in the NBA and Indiana held them almost nine points below their season average.

Paul George solidified his potential All-Star status with 31 points, six rebounds, three assists and five steals and his fellow forward, David West, chipped in 20 points, 11 boards and seven assists.

Roy Hibbert and George Hill both added 12 and 15 points, respectively.

The Pacers beat the Grizzlies, 88-83, on New Year's Eve, but Memphis won five in a row against Indiana prior to that. Indiana is winless in four straight at the Grizzlies.