MEMPHIS - Indiana's David West took one look at the instant replay monitor of Memphis forward Rudy Gay's alleged game-winning two-pointer and made his own ruling before the officials had a chance to confirm.
"No"," West said, waving his hands.
West was right. Gay's shot, which banked in from the left of the top of the key, was too late, allowing the Pacers to escape FedExForum with an 88-87 victory in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day game Monday afternoon.
In a battle of teams ranked first (Indiana) and second (Memphis) in the NBA in points allowed, the Grizzlies (26-14) had the last possession, but the Pacers (26-16) had the last laugh when Paul George defended Gay perfectly.
"I didn't want him to get to his right hand immediately," George said. "So I jammed his right hand, made him go the other way and that pretty much took up the time."
Gay and the most of the rest of the Grizzlies exited the court even before the officiating crew confirmed their on-court ruling of the shot coming too late.
"Had the shot," Gay said, "just came too late."
Since it's no secret around the league that the Grizzlies' game-winning shots typically are set up for Gay, the Pacers expected him to take the shot.
In this case, however, Gay was suffering through what ended as a 7-for-22 shooting performance, so Memphis coach Lionel Hollins designed the last play with reserve guard Wayne Ellington as the first option. Ellington, who scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-of-3 threes, was the only bright light in the Grizzlies' 42.2 percent effort from the field.
West scored a team-high 14 for the Pacers, with George contributing the game's only double-double, going for 12 points and 10 rebounds.
It was a George three-pointer with 1:42 left that reclaimed the lead for the Pacers at 81-79 after the Grizzlies' Mike Conley nailed a three for a 79-78 Memphis lead with 2:10 left.
Memphis finally tied the game at 81-81 on a Zach Randolph layup with 10.5 seconds remaining, but only after a display of hustle by Griz guard Tony Allen, who had two offensive rebounds, a steal and the assist on Randolph's basket during an offensive possession he personally kept alive for almost 35 seconds in the final minute.
The last of the game's 19 lead changes came with 1.4 seconds left when Pacers guard George Hill hit the back end of a two-shot free throw situation after being fouled by Conley, providing the final margin of victory.
"We made a lot of plays down the stretch, some awesome plays," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Both teams play the same way, hard and with great heart and effort. But to shoot 49 percent (the Pacers were 34-of-69 from the field) against one of the best defensive teams in the league is pretty impressive."
The fact that Ellington came off the bench and led the Grizzlies in scoring was an indication of what type of day it was for the Grizzlies starters, especially the front line of Gay, Randolph and Marc Gasol.
From start to finish, they struggled mightily with the Pacers' length inside. Gay, Gasol and Randolph combined for 33 points on 14-of-40 shooting, and that was after that trio combined for a mere nine points on 4-of-20 shooting from the field in the first half.
The Grizzlies were fortunate to be trailing by just 43-39 at halftime, considering the Pacers' starters dominated Memphis' starters, holding a 35-21 scoring edge.
Only a brief boost from the Grizzlies' bench, including eight points in 10 minutes from Ellington, kept Memphis within shouting distance after two quarters.
A 14-0 Memphis run, capped a Randolph bank shot, brought the Griz back to a 53-48 lead after the Pacers had eased out to a nine-point lead in the first two minutes of the second half.
But the Pacers once again righted themselves. They stopped the turnovers that got the Grizzlies back in the game, and returned to forcing the action inside.
"Our effort fluctuated throughout the game," said Conley, who had 13 points along with Randolph. "Early on, we didn't have any energy for some reason, then the second unit picked us up. Down the stretch, Tony (Allen) singlehandily brought us back with his effort alone. We all need to play with the same passion."
Notes: George (12 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) narrowly missed becoming the third Indiana player (Roy Hibbert, David West are the others) to record a triple double this season. . .Griz guard Ellington led the team in scoring for the third time this year. . .The Pacers blocked 11 shots, their second straight game with double-digit rejections and fifth consecutive with seven blocks or more.