The Friday night thrashing the Phoenix Suns gave the Philadelphia 76ers presented Jeff Hornacek the opportunity to save his best players’ legs. Isaiah Thomas led the Suns with 24 minutes...

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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.

Keys to the Game

  • The Green Machine: Will we see the "OMG, Gerald Green!" or the "WTF, Gerald Green?" tonight? Green started both of those wins vs. the Pacers last season in Bledsoe's absence, and responded with 23 and 16 point outings. How will Green fare off the bench tonight?
  • Ah, push it. Push it real good: Despite playing last night, the Suns will need to get up on this and push the pace on the plodding Pacers. It's not as if the Suns starters had to break much of a sweat in downing the putrid 76ers last night, so run, run, and then run some more. Get in those passing lanes to create turnovers, then attack.
  • Which of the three-headed monster will bring it? Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are three of the Suns four highest scorers, but each has been up and down so far. IT has cooled after his fast start while Dragic seems to be hitting his stride. Who will have the hot hand tonight?
  • Plumlee and Len vs. Hibbert: He's the Pacers leading scorer at 14.0 PPG, but Hibbert isn't any kind of offensive juggernaut. The Plum-Len duo should be able to play him to at least a draw, though the Pacers center is enjoying a bit of a Renaissance after his collapse late last season.
  • Ball movement: This will be a continuing theme for the Suns all season. It's nice to have three great PGs and, theoretically, such a roster should be able to pass it around for open shots, but that hasn't always been the case. All three are shoot-first players to varying degrees, which is fine because they can all light it up, but the Suns will have to play smarter on offense. 15th in O-rating won't cut it.

Probable Starters


Suns win ugly, 102-98

Game time: 5PM AZ
Television: Fox Sports AZ and NBA League Pass
Radio: KTAR 98.7FM will feature the dulcet tones of Al McCoy. Shazam! It's twine time!

Join us in the game thread for all the fun, starting at 4:30PM.

Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tried to downplay his comments about the Kentucky Wildcats hypothetically beating the Philadelphia 76ers, but a winless Sixers team couldn’t throw any bit of motivation...

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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.

The Suns did exactly what was expected, performing like an NBA team against the borderline-NBA Sixers en route to a 122-96 win

Not a whole lot to say here. The Suns performed like an NBA team, while the Sixers performed like the Sixers. After a precarious first quarter, the Suns found their footing with the stellar play of Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green, as they quickly turned this into a laugher in the second quarter and never looked back. While no one should be resting on any laurels after schooling the borderline-D-League Sixers, it was pivotal to utilize this matchup as an easy win on the first game of a back-to-back, and the good guys didn't disappoint.

It's hard to even portend to provide any analysis on this game. The Sixers are that bad. When they executed well on offense, they would still miss the shot. Their rotations on defense made you wonder if they were actually angling for an open three from the opposing team. This looked like a mismatched rec-league game. It is nice to see the Suns like undeniably superior to an opposing basketball team, but I can only recommend a gargantuan grain of salt for this game.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Suns with 23 points on just 9 attempts from the field. Gerald Green chipped in with 11 points on 5-5 from the field, and even Anthony Tolliver got in on the action with 11 points in garbage-time.

Michael Carter-Williams notched 18 points in a woeful losing effort.

1st Quarter

  • Eric Bledsoe's comment about his Kentucky Wildcats apparently made its way to the greater Philadelphia area, as he was showered with boos from the homecrowd during pregame introductions.
  • Adding to the narrative, the game began on a contentious note, with Bledsoe and Nerlens Noel getting into a scuffle after a hard foul by Noel that struck Bledsoe in the facial region. Like M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village", it left Bledsoe frustrated.
  • The Suns didn't score until the 9:05 mark on a goaltending call against Noel. The Sixers are playing motivated and lead the game 10-2 as the Suns' offense continues to feel truncated with the starting lineup, with most field goal attempts coming from the awkward midrange area.
  • Bledsoe is getting booed anytime he's even near the ball. It's actually pretty funny.
  • Goran Dragic threw up a wide-open airball from three after a flop from MCW. Would've seemed impossible last season. Much like M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening", this doesn't make much sense. Sixers up 16-7.
  • Markieff drilled a three with no hesitation. Then bricked one, also with no hesitation.
  • Len vs Noel! Their first head-to-head matchup ends with a non-shooting foul on Noel as Len posted up. Noel then gets taken out; the narrative will have to wait.
  • Alexey Shved wears no. 88. I like that.
  • Tempo has increased. This is already better than the Pistons game, from a spectator's point of view. Shved gets a BS call on made 3-pointer. Sixers up 24-20.
  • Green to Len for the dunk! I will never get tired of typing those words!
  • Len forces a 24-second violation. Suns trail 24-27. Sixers playing like they want it.
  • Isaiah Thomas hits his 36th and 37th consecutive freethrows; Suns trail 27-26. Basketball!

2nd Quarter

  • Len giving Noel about 10 feet of space on the perimeter. Oooh, BURN! The rivalry! The narrative!
  • Sixers starting to look like Sixers. 33-27, Suns, on IT's pullup swisheroo; this after a horribly bungled Sixers possession that resulted in a 24.
  • IT now 4-4 from the field, 5-5 from the line.
  • The Chuck Wagon is rolling along. Neither IT or Green has missed a shot. 21 points combined.
  • Green is in full swag. Hits his fourth-straight FG on a turnaround 20-footer.
  • Tucker makes Sims pay on the switch with a shootaround-style midrange J. Yeah, it's that kind of game. 44-33 Suns.
  • Tucker then receives a technical foul for ... some reason. Much like I was confused by the motives of the aliens in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs", I am at a loss for an explanation.
  • MCW is entering hero-ball mode with an early 3PA that wasn't close. This doesn't look good for the Sixers. IT responds with a made 3 -- 53-35, Suns.
  • Tucker owns the post vs Wroten like he's Hakeem Olajuwon. This is such a beating it's almost not enjoyable. 55-35, Suns.
  • Every time K.J. McDaniels enters the game, Steve Albert makes jokes about his mom. That's gotta be a little embarrassing, right? Like, SHUT UP, MOM! GAWD!
  • T.J. Warren time! Promptly scores on a tip-in. 61-37, Suns.
  • Even after a mini-run by the Sixers, Bled scores 6 straight points to put the Suns up 67-44. Much like M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water", there isn't much to see here.

3rd Quarter

  • Did the Suns set the bar too high in the first half? Much like M. Night Shyamalan did with "The SIxth Sense"? We're about to find out.
  • Bledsoe is killing it, as Seth Pollack would say. Breakaway dunk, then an assist leading to an and-1 for Kieff. 72-46, Suns.
  • And Bled kills it again with a 15-foot fadeaway. Maybe he should mouth off more often.
  • Shav time!
  • Goran gets obliterated on a transition layup. Scores the bucket, but jeebus sake can this guy get a foul call please??
  • Ann Meyers-Drysdale just called Plumlee "Miles Davis". Didn't know she was a jazz fan.
  • Brandon Davies just hit the backboard on a wide-open straightaway 17-footer. Yeah ... Sixers.
  • Mook hits back-to-back 3's. This is just a scrimmage at this point. 88-54, Suns.
  • Mook with his THIRD straight 3. 90-58, Suns.
  • Archie with a flailing drive that resulted in a shot that bounced off the top of the backboard. The Mongoose is not yet ready for his close-up.
  • K.J. McDaniels hits a nice transition layup as the buzzer sounds, but it was waved off. Like M. Night Shyamalan's "Unbreakable", it was all for naught.

4th Quarter

  • Smoke break...
  • Ok, I'm back. Did I miss anything?
  • Much like M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender", there is no semblance of humanity to be seen here from the Sixers tonight.
  • Alright, I think I'm done here. Be sure to tip your waitress.

The Suns needed to take care of business on the first game of a back-to-back. Next up, the Pacers. Let's be happy with what unfolded tonight, and on the same token, let's get ready for the Pacers, who much more closely resemble an NBA team than the collection of individuals the Suns faced off against tonight.

Sleep well, my friends.

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