Pacers remain unbeaten after win over Grizzlies

Cliff Brunt, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers say their unbeaten record doesn't mean as much as how they've earned it.
The Pacers used the same formula that has worked so far to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night -- a dominant defensive effort anchored by 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, timely shooting from forward Paul George, improved play from guard Lance Stephenson and steady production from the bench. George scored 23 points and Stephenson had a triple-double as the Pacers beat the Grizzlies 95-79.
"I think the most important thing is the way we're playing and the level of confidence we're playing with," Pacers reserve forward Luis Scola said. "We're playing like we belong to be the No. 1 seed in the East, at least for these eight games. We know we're going to lose games too, but we're playing the right way, we're playing with the right attitudes, right approach for the game."
Stephenson's triple-double was the first of his career. The guard had 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. The assist total was a career high, and the rebounding total matched his regular-season career high.
The Pacers knew Stephenson was getting close to the triple-double. He got it on an assist to George for a free-throw-line jumper with 10:56 remaining that gave Indiana a 78-55 lead.
"We were talking a little bit before he got his 10th assist, and we both celebrated on it," George said.
Stephenson tried to downplay the significance of the accomplishment because he feels he has more great moments ahead.
"I'm just being aggressive, playing like I normally play," he said. "We played good as a team and made smart plays and got the 'W.' We locked in together, everybody on the same page."
Stephenson came to the Pacers with some baggage, but he has begun to mature under coach Frank Vogel.
"He's come a long way," Vogel said. "He had a lot to learn about professionalism and how to work. He's playing within himself and playing with efficiency. Winning basketball games is about confidence, and he gives us an edge, a swagger."
George had just four points at halftime, but the forward scored 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the second half.
Point guard George Hill scored 13 points and Scola added 12 for Indiana. The Pacers (8-0) improved on their franchise-best start and dominated a team that played in the Western Conference finals last season.
Center Marc Gasol scored 15 points and forward Zach Randolph added 12 points, and each grabbed six rebounds for the Grizzlies (3-4). Point guard Mike Conley, who entered the game averaging 20.2 points, was held to 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Memphis shot just 41 percent from the field and posted its lowest point total of the young season.
"They came out aggressive and outrebounded us and made shots from the start," Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "They played harder than we did and were the aggressors. And when a team does that, they usually win. They imposed their will on us and hit us in the mouth from the start."
The Pacers held the Grizzlies to 34 percent shooting in the first half to lead 46-39 at the break. Stephenson had eight points, nine rebounds and eight assists before the break. George, who entered the game as the league's No. 3 scorer, made only two of eight shots in the opening two quarters.
The Pacers, as they often have, fixed their problems at halftime.
"We have open discussion at half," Pacers forward David West said. "We watch video, we watch film of the mistakes we made in the first half and we demand that everybody comes out of this locker room with the intent to change, correct the mistakes we made in the first half."
Two quick buckets by George gave the Pacers a 53-41 lead and caused the Grizzlies to call timeout three minutes into the second half.
The Pacers came up with the ball in a scramble, and West found Stephenson under the basket for a layup that pushed Indiana's lead to 61-46 and led to another Grizzlies timeout.
Allen was called for a flagrant foul with 1:19 left in the third quarter. George made the first of two free throws, then made a tough up-and-under basket on the extra possession to put the Pacers up 70-52. Indiana led 72-55 at the end of the period.
George scored 13 points in the third quarter on 5-for-6 shooting from the field.
"Paul George is playing at an all-world level," Memphis coach David Joerger said. "They're an elite team, there's no question."
Stephenson left the game to a standing ovation with 4:11 remaining.
"He's growing," West said. "We still have to reel him in. He still has a ways to go in terms of his maturity, but everything he's doing, he's helping, contributing to this group."
NOTES: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said F Danny Granger could return to practice this week. Granger has not played this season because of a strained left calf. Vogel did not say when he expected Granger to return to game action. ... Pacers F Paul George was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday. ... Grizzlies G Mike Conley and F Zach Randolph both played high school ball in Indiana. ... Indiana entered the game leading the NBA in scoring defense (85.3 points per game), point differential (9.6 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (.389). ... Pacers C Roy Hibbert, the league's leading shot blocker, swatted four in the first quarter and finished with five on the night.

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