After an easy night downing the sorry Sixers in Philadelphia, the Suns roll into Indy to face a Pacers squad which lacks firepower but still brings the defense, and has won 4 of its last 5. Opening tip-off is 5PM AZ time.
The Indiana Pacers (5-7) fell from Eastern Conference contenders to also-rans after Lance Stephenson departed in free agency, then Paul George broke his leg playing a scrimmage for the US Men's National Team this past summer.
George and Stephenson were two of the three highest scorers on last season's Pacers squad. Stephenson was a key component for the Pacers' #1 rated defense while George was growing into a genuine superstar.
This year's Pacers are down from 1st to 8th in D-rating, and their never-all-that-impressive offense is down from 23rd to 25th, scoring only 101.1 points per 100 possessions, and only 91.6 per game. They've also slowed the pace even further, from 20th to 29th in the league, though they have won 4 of their last 5 games.
The Suns, meanwhile, are sputtering a bit on offense, scoring 105.2PPG due to a fast pace, but are just 15th in the league in O-rating. Chew on this, Suns fans: Our boys have a better defensive rating (13th) than offensive rating as we enter the 14th game of the season.
Last season, the Suns boat-raced (or, since it's Indy, car-raced?) the Pacers 124-100 in January, then beat them again 8 days later, 102-94. They did this by spreading the vaunted Pacers D, then attacking the paint with zeal. Gerald Green had a grand, old time devastating his former team. Roy Hibbert did not enjoy it quite so much.
It's funny how expectations work. Last season's Suns were like found money to us fans as they blew low expectations out of the water. This season, 8-5 so far somehow feels disappointing.
For the Pacers, the losses of George and Stephenson obviously ratcheted expectations way back, and now some of their fans are holding a "Hey, we don't totally suck!" sentiment.
Eric Bledsoe said a silly thing on the radio that was a legit insult to the Philadelphia 76ers. And when it came time to take his lumps he didn't avoid the punishment for his mistake.
Let's make this really clear: Eric Bledsoe said a dumb thing on the radio when he claimed his former Kentucky Wildcats team would crush the current version of the winless Philadelphia 76ers in a seven-game series. He said it was a joke and it probably was because it's so obviously wrong as explained here.
BREAKING: Athlete says dumb thing on radio.
But here's where the story gets interesting. Going into Friday night's game in Philly Bledsoe apparently was aware that he pissed off fellow professionals (yeah, I know that term won't apply to half that roster for too long but whatever) and would be targeted for retribution.
"They were telling me before that if I came into the paint, they were going to do something dirty," Bledsoe said (via AZ Republic). "So I did it on purpose."
On the Suns very first offensive possession Eric went into the lane and took a flagrant foul from (ironically) former Kentucky Wildcat Nerlens Noel. Good stuff all around. Noel needed to stand up for his sorry team and Bledsoe wasted literally no time in standing up for his dumb comment.
How can you not love that?
The best part of all this for the Phoenix Suns is how silliness like this helps build team chemistry. Nothing brings a team together more than standing up together against an enemy. You saw that in how the team withstood the young Sixers first punch and turned the game into a rout thanks to the flaming hands of Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green.
I don't know if the three point guard thing will work. I have my doubts. But if this team is going to recapture last year's magical chemical mix stuff like this will only help.
Here's how this whole thing looked from a Philly perspective.