Notebook: Streak ends, relief felt, Thad returns

It’s over.

The Pacers’ longest losing streak of the season — six games spanning from Feb. 8 to the 16th — came to an end Friday as they crushed the Memphis Grizzlies at Bankers Life Fieldhouse 102-92.

During that stretch, which followed a season-long seven-game win streak, their opponents scored an average of 116 points, won by an average of eight points, and shot 49.1 percent. The defense was poor and needed to be corrected. Fast.

Miles scored a game-high 17 points in the win. [Frank McGrath]

The Grizzlies entered the game tied with the Golden State Warriors for the best field goal percentage defense at 43.6 percent. The Pacers shot 51.3 percent and made all eleven free throw attempts in the win. It was the 17th time they made at least half of their shots. 14 times they were victorious.

In the first game back from the All-Star break, six Pacers reached double figures. None of them were named Paul George. The four-time All-Star was 3-for-12 and had nine points, and wasn’t concerned with his shooting after the game. Oddly enough, his career scoring average (14) is the worst against Memphis.

He appreciated the love he felt from the home fans after a tough week full of trade rumors that didn’t pan out.

With about five minutes to go, George began to experience cramps in his right thigh and went to the locker room early.

“I’m all right,” he said. “Both legs started cramping on me but the right leg was pretty bad.”

He says he expects to be fine playing in a back-to-back Saturday night in Miami.

See Also: Paul George heard the cheers, had ’emotional moment’ before the game

Indiana’s bench was strong and pushed them ahead by 23 in the second half via a 15-4 run. Monta Ellis was 7-for-10 and had 16 points, Lavoy Allen recorded his second double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds).

“We played it like it was a preseason game quite honestly,” Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale said of his 34-25 team.

C.J. Miles paced the Pacers with 17 points. With the win, their 21st at home this season, they locked in a winning home record for the 28th consecutive season. That’s the longest active streak in the NBA.

Even more, this was an important one because they don’t have a home game until March 8th. They are on the road for their next five games with stops in Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Charlotte.

See Also: Christmas arrives early

Trade Deadline Relief

The trade deadline being in the rear-view mirror is a relief for everyone. Team executives, coaches, players … especially the players. And media, too. The Pacers explored the market but opted to sit tight and ride out the season with the roster as currently constructed.

Still, there was some tension for the players, some unsure if they would remain on roster or be sent elsewhere.

“The players think about it a lot,” said first-year Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. “It’s good to see that day come and go because they do think about it. They now know that they are going to be here and be a part of this team.”

Paul George was at the center of reports throughout the league.

“Yeah, I think for everybody,” George answered without hesitation. “Everybody needed to just put that behind us and get ready for what’s ahead.”

During team introductions Friday night, fans clearly cheered louder than usual while their star was shown on the massive video board — slapping the hands of teammates as he trotted out to the free throw line.

Return of Thad

It was a welcomed sight to see No. 21 out on the floor Friday. The Pacers had been without Thad Young, their starting power forward who they acquired in June, for the past eight games due to a sprain to his left hand. It’s also his shooting wrist; Thad is left-handed.

Young was a full participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, and he went through shootaround Friday morning.

“Feeling as good as I can be right now,” he said then. “Still a little sore, but you play through those type of things.”

On top of that, he made it a point to get extra shots up considering he had been inactive for the last three weeks.

“Everything goes to the left right now,” he said with a big smile on his face. “(Thursday) I hit the side of the backboard but I think that was more of me trying to put three weeks into two days. I’ve been off three weeks; I hadn’t touched a basketball. Then, to try to come back cold turkey it never works out well when you are such a rhythm player.”

After given clearance by team doctors and trainers and testing his wrist in pre-game warmups, Young rejoined the starting lineup.

“Yeah we need Thad,” George said after shootaround. “Man, Thad has a huge IQ. He understands defense, he understands space and offensively he’s a playmaker for us at that four spot. It might be rough on him shooting wise because his wrist is still bothering him a little bit, but I think just his presence in that lineup will definitely help us.”

Young, who averages 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, is not a minutes restriction but he admitted that his conditioning is yet where he’d like to be.

“The biggest thing is just trying to get back in rhythm,” he added.

Glenn Robinson III fires up a jumper. [Frank McGrath]

During the All-Star break, Young iced the wrist daily and completed exercises in an effort to keep the swelling down. With 14 of their final 24 games on the road, including the next five, the team is pleased to have him back.

“We just felt like we were whole with Thad out there with that first group,” McMillan said after the win. “He’s been the glue for us, being in the right place offensively and getting stops defensively.”

Game Recognize Game

Fresh off his Slam Dunk contest title, Glenn Robinson III spoke briefly with 2000 winner Vince Carter, 40, of the Grizzlies. They didn’t know each other, but Carter was in the league seven years with GRIII’s father – The Big Dog, who played in the league from 1994-2005.

“He was like ‘Congrats.’ He told me that that’s the key to the dunk contest,” Robinson III recalled. “You’ve got to make the dunk. Can’t nobody be mad at you for missing your dunks.

Robinson III said he rewatched the 2000 Slam Dunk contest before he competed. He was six when Carter won.

“His first dunk he came out and just tried to intimidate everybody. His first dunk was crazy, and that’s what I was trying to do. I think it worked because they missed theirs.”

Vince still has some hops, by the way.

Conley Appreciates Hickory

The Pacers wore their Hickory uniforms once again Friday night, and they honored the great Marion Giant teams from the 1980s. It was a perfect choice with 2000 graduate Zach Randolph playing his annual game back in Indiana.

Another Indiana kid on the Grizzlies is point guard Mike Conley. He won three state championships while at Lawrence North from 2002-06. He, more than most NBA players, could appreciate the Hickory angle.

“To get to play against them [in those uniforms] as pros is really cool. It’s very special knowing Indiana basketball history.”

In the Stands

So … this was hilarious.

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