For an Indiana team that’s been battling illness, facing a Memphis squad that’s lost four in a row may be a good cure.
The Pacers will try to rebound from a last-second loss with their third consecutive road win and third straight victory in Memphis on Friday night.
Indiana (10-18) is coming off Tuesday’s 108-107 loss to New Jersey as Nets guard Devin Harris hit a jumper at the buzzer. In his first action since missing two games with a viral infection, Danny Granger scored 26 points, including a jumper with 10.0 seconds left that gave the Pacers a 107-106 lead.
Granger, averaging 30.0 points in his last five games, had his string of 45 straight free throws snapped as he missed a pair in the final minute. He’s shooting a career-best 87.2 percent from the foul line in 2008-09.
Battling the same infection that sidelined Granger, Troy Murphy did not play Tuesday for the fourth straight game. He’s lost more than 20 pounds due to the illness, according to Pacers coach Jim O’Brien. Murphy, the team leader with 12 double-doubles, missed Wednesday’s practice but is expected to travel with the team on Thursday.
Even without Murphy, averaging 11.1 rebounds, the Pacers could still have the advantage on the boards against the Grizzlies - the league’s worst rebounding team with 38.1 per game. Indiana is among the league leaders, averaging 45.1 rebounds, and had a combined 91-71 rebounding edge in winning its last two visits to Memphis while scoring an average of 118.5 points.
Marquis Daniels, scoring 16.0 points per game, dressed for Tuesday’s game but did not play for the third straight contest due to the same viral infection. He could play on Friday.
“It just seems like we have more (injuries and illnesses) than normal,” said guard Travis Diener, who scored 11 points off the bench as starter T.J. Ford did not play in the second half due to back spasms. “We’re going to start winning, it’s just a matter of time before everybody gets healthy.”
The Pacers had won just two of their first 13 road games before winning the last two, holding Washington and Philadelphia to a combined 42.9 percent from the field.
That does not bode well for a struggling Memphis offense which shot 38.3 percent Tuesday in a 100-82 loss to Dallas. The Grizzlies (9-19) missed 17 of their first 21 field goal attempts and had their lowest-scoring half of the season with 32 points in the opening 24 minutes.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy,” said Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni, whose team is averaging 86.3 points during its four-game losing streak. “We were random, we weren’t getting into sets. We said we wanted to run them, but we didn’t want to get into a random situation and take bad shots.”
O.J. Mayo is looking to get his shooting touch back after scoring 21.0 points per game and making 53.0 percent from the field during an 11-game stretch from Nov. 26-Dec. 16. In his last three games, the rookie is averaging 12.0 points and hitting 30.8 percent.
Memphis acquired Steve Francis from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday for a conditional second-round pick in 2011. Francis, the second overall pick by the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1999, has not played this season but is expected to take a physical in Memphis on Friday.