MEMPHIS - During an early season shift to a smaller starting lineup, the Memphis Grizzlies have encountered some rough stretches. But it appears, at least if Saturday's 96-84 victory over the Indiana Pacers is an indication, the move away from the franchise's traditional physical style may eventually be successful.
Forward Matt Barnes, who has supplanted burly Zach Randolph in the starting lineup, had 15 points and 10 rebounds - his second double-double for the Grizzlies - to complement veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who finished with 20 and 19 points respectively. Gasol added 12 rebounds and Conley contributed eight assists.
"It's been a roller-coaster season to this point (as) this team has transitioned from their traditional grit-and-grind-it-out (style) to kind of small ball - what the rest of the league has (transitioned) to," Barnes said. "I think it's taken us a little longer to gel and catch our rhythm."
Memphis (15-14) had few problems with the new look against the Pacers (16-10). The Grizzlies only trailed briefly - 48-46 early in the third quarter - and enjoyed their biggest lead (94-80) in the closing minutes.
Gasol and Conley fueled a late run to push the Grizzlies lead to 14 and keep the Pacers from putting together a comeback. Gasol and Conley combined for the Grizzlies' final 13 points.
Forward Paul George, averaging 26.1 points, scored 29 to lead the Pacers, but was only 4-of-12 from beyond the arc.
The Grizzlies had a difficult week with losses Sunday at Miami, Wednesday at Chicago and Friday at Dallas, but coach Dave Joerger found a positive spin.
"Overall, a very pleasing week for us," Joerger said. "We got a chance at the Miami game. It could have gone either way ... otherwise you come out of his week (with a) 3-2 (record).
"This was an emotional win for us. Our guys are pulling together. They are playing hard. They are sticking together. Marc was fantastic. Matt Barnes was just all over the place."
The Grizzlies won their fifth straight against the Pacers and swept the two-game series this season.
Indiana had won three straight and four of five, but shot just 39 percent, including 5-of-28 from beyond the arc. Except for George, the Pacers' starters were 0-of-12 from 3-point range.
"We didn't shoot the ball well," said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. "We didn't play well enough in any area. We didn't defend well enough, we didn't run well enough, we didn't cover for each other on the defensive end well enough and, obviously, we didn't shoot the ball well enough.
"I thought we tried to move the ball, but it wasn't crisp ... it was just one of those nights."
Committed to a small-ball approach, the Grizzlies remained with the smaller lineup when the Pacers switched to bigger rotation in the second half. George said the new Grizzlies' look wasn't the cause of the Pacers' problems.
"My matchup was the same, guarding the same person all game," he said. "I didn't really see a difference in it. They imposed the same style with both lineups (and) it was hard for us to get into a rhythm."
The Grizzlies attempted to pull away late in the third quarter as they used a 16-2 run to build a 12-point lead at 62-50. Trailing for the first time in the game at 48-46 on a George Hill putback, the Grizzlies got 3-pointers from Barnes and Vince Carter during the run. Carter capped the run with a reverse dunk.
The Pacers answered with a run of their own, scoring nine straight to trim the Memphis lead to three points. The Grizzlies led 70-66 after three quarters.
Then in the closing minutes, Gasol and Conley imposed their will.
"We played really hard and upbeat and with a lot of energy," Conley said. "We have to continue to learn from what we're doing in the good moments and continue to learn with the transitioning of guys and different lineups."
The Grizzlies never trailed in the first half and built a 19-10 late in the first quarter. The early lead had as much to do with the Grizzlies' 10-of-22 shooting in the first quarter as it did with the Pacers' struggles. Indiana was 5-of-19 in the opening quarter and missed 8-of-9 3-point attempts.
In the second quarter, the Pacers gradually trimmed the deficit. A 3-pointer by George cut the Grizzlies lead to 39-37 with three minutes left and Ian Mahinmi made it a 42-41 game a minute later. Jordan Hill's putback in the closing seconds kept it 44-43.
George had 14 points at the half for the Pacers, who were 3-of-14 from beyond the arc. Gasol had 11 points and seven rebounds at the half for Memphis, which shot 42.5 percent (17-of-40).
NOTES: Pacers F Paul George was fined $35,000 Saturday for his public criticism of the officiating and use of profanity after Friday's 104-97 home win over Brooklyn. Pacers coach Frank Vogel called it a "heat of the moment" reaction by George and added "he's entitled to say what he feels; I don't have much more to say about it beyond that." ... Grizzlies G/F Tony Allen missed his fifth straight game with a right knee injury. ... Indiana opponents have averaged 111.8 points in the Pacers' losses this season, most allowed in the NBA. In wins by the Pacers, their opponents average 91.2 points. ... The Grizzlies allowed 10 3-pointers in their 97-88 loss Friday night at Dallas. Fifteen opponents have made 10 or more 3-pointers against the Grizzlies this season, most allowed in the NBA. ... The Pacers entered the game averaging 103.8 points. The average leads the Eastern Conference and ranks sixth in the NBA. ... The Grizzlies do not normally struggle in the second game of back-to-back games. Memphis entered Saturday night's game with a 6-1 record in the second game of back-to-backs while averaging 103.7 points and shooting 48 percent.