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Pacers-Grizzlies Preview

Dec 17, 2009 - 7:51 PM By ANTHONY GIORNALISTA STATS Senior Writer

Indiana (9-14) at Memphis (10-15), 8:00 p.m. EDT

Troy Murphy is settling into his role as the Indiana Pacers' new top scorer. He's had little luck, though, trying to get into a groove against the Memphis Grizzlies in recent years.

Following perhaps his best performance of the season, Murphy looks to end his struggles against the Grizzlies on Friday night.

The loss of All-Star swingman Danny Granger to a foot injury hasn't stopped Indiana (9-14) from bouncing back from a six-game losing streak. The Pacers were defeated in their first game after losing Granger but are 3-1 since.

Granger, averaging 24.4 points, is expected to miss at least four weeks.

Murphy has taken over as the go-to scorer, averaging 22.7 points while shooting 47.4 percent (9 for 19) from 3-point range and 59.1 percent (26 for 44) overall over his last three games. The veteran big man had 26 points, going 5 of 7 from beyond the arc, and added 15 rebounds in a 101-98 win over Charlotte on Wednesday night.

"Murph is a heck of a player, he's a weapon," Indiana forward Mike Dunleavy said. "He can space the floor and make shots. He's been playing really well lately."

Murphy missed six games in November due to a back injury and the Pacers performed just fine without him, going 5-1. Now Indiana would likely be much worse off without his scoring.

"I've been watching a lot of film with the coaches and trying to find different places where I can get shots," Murphy said.

Matchups with Memphis (10-15), though, have given him problems. Murphy is averaging 7.8 points and shooting 31.8 percent in his last five games against the Grizzlies.

But Memphis has struggled defensively this season, allowing an average of 104.8 points. The Grizzlies lost 110-97 to Atlanta on Wednesday night.

"Defense is not something that kids come out of college wanting to do," forward Rudy Gay told the Grizzlies' official Web site. "There are a lot of people out there less athletic than other people, and they can lock people down. It's not how fast you are and how strong you are. It's position."

Gay was held to 11 points, leaving in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. He didn't return, but said the injury isn't serious and he could have played if the game was closer.

Gay, averaging a team-high 20.9 points, anticipates facing the Pacers.

Gay and the Grizzlies' four other starters all scored in double figures Wednesday, but Zach Randolph - averaging 18.3 points - was limited to 10.

Randolph is averaging 26.0 points while going 11 of 22 from 3-point range in his last nine games versus the Pacers. The veteran big man, though, has stayed away from the perimeter for the most part this season, attempting seven shots from beyond the arc.

With Gay hurt and Randolph struggling, Memphis lost for the third time in four games after winning its previous three, a stretch that included victories over Cleveland and Dallas.

The Grizzlies and Pacers each won at home in last season's series.