What: Phoenix Suns (27-18, 2nd Pacific) vs. Indiana Pacers (35-9, 1st NBA)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse -- Indianaoplis, IN
When: 5:00PM MST
Watch: FoxSports AZ, NBA League Pass
Read: Get the Pacer point of view over at Indy Cornrows
Is there such a thing as an embarrassing win? Last night felt like an embarrassing win. That game should have been over in the first half, the starters should have been sitting for the last 15 minutes or so and Goran Dragi? should have simply been chilling instead of icing his elbow for the last few minutes of the game. That's all water under the bridge at this point, but it all could have a bearing on tonight's game versus the Indiana Pacers.
This is the second time the Phoenix Suns and Pacers meet this season. The first time, the Suns snapped the Pacers' five game winning streak in a 124-100 beatdown that the Suns laid on the Pacers on national television. The Suns had their way with the Pacers, sporting a large lead throughout the game and the only starter who played in the 4th quarter was Channing Frye. Dragi? and Gerald Green had 21 and 23 apiece in the first 3 quarters. Markieff Morris did most of his damage mopping up the mess, scoring 12 of his 20 in the 4th quarter. Paul George led a stymied Pacers squad with 26 points. The Pacers had no answers for the Suns' offense, allowing Phoenix to shoot a scintillating 54.2% from the field and a mind-blowing 68.8% (11-16) from behind the arc.
I know the Pacers have bigger fish to fry this season that splitting the season series with the Suns, but I have a feeling they will be looking to avenge a humiliating loss to an upstart team a couple months removed from being on most pundits' tank list. For the Suns' part, this is their opportunity to go for a "sweep sweep", having wrapped up the season series with wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers already on the first 3 games of this road trip.
The Pacers will be at full strength with no reported injuries. Once again, Eric Bledsoe (knee) and Emeka Okafor (neck) are out for the Suns. Goran Dragi? took a nasty spill on his elbow in the fourth quarter against the Bucks and continued to play well despite some swelling. There has been no update on his condition as of this writing, but Paul Coro reported that X-Rays were negative, though there is concern due to the amount of swelling and a previous injury to the same elbow.
Update: Coro tweeted that the elbow is improving and the Gogi is a game-time decision.
Offensive Rating - 109.3 (8th NBA), Defensive Rating - 105.7 (15th NBA)
Offensive Rating - 105.4 (18th NBA), Defensive Rating - 96.3 (1st NBA)
Numbers In a Nutshell
The Suns maintain a balanced offensive and defensive agenda, while the Pacers are clearly lead by Paul George on the scoring end and Roy Hibbert on the defensive end. While the Pacers are at full strength, if Dragi? is hampered by that elbow injury, Phoenix will be hard pressed to find those 20 points elsewhere on the roster. The Suns' offensive outburst on January 22 was anomalous against a team that normally surrenders a stingy 90.2 points per game. Phoenix played a nearly flawless game last time and will have to do so again in order to beat them on their own court.
Projected Starting Lineups
F - P.J. Tucker
F- Channing Frye
C - Miles Plumlee
G - Gerald Green
G - Goran Dragi?
F - Paul George
F - David West
C - Roy Hibbert
G - Lance Stephenson
G - George Hill
Keys to the Game
Take What They Give: The Suns shot the lights out in their first match-up with the Pacers and need to do so again. Indiana holds opponents to a league-low 41.2 FG% and 32.9 3PT%. The Suns need to take advantage of every offensive opportunity a keyed-up Indiana defense gives them.
Dig Deep: This the fourth game in five nights and the second game of a back-to-back for the Phoenix Suns. While none of the starters played more than 30 minutes last night, these are not the ideal circumstances for a rematch with the best team in the association. The Suns will have to find a way to stay sharp and feel fresh to wrap up this road trip with a win.
The Suns' Offense vs. the Suns' Defense: The Suns' offense has been a holy terror the last 2 games, scoring a combined 250 points against the Bucks and 76ers. Unfortunately the defense has been equally holey, allowing the league worst Milwaukee Bucks to score 26 points above their season average and the 76ers to score 12 points above theirs. It will take a complete effort on both ends to come out of Indy with a victory.
I think all signs point to a Suns' loss tonight. There's the #revengegame factor. There's road-weariness for the Suns. There's Goran Dragi?'s elbow. I think Indiana is going to come out with the defensive clamps fully engaged and take it to the Suns from the jump. For the Suns' part, it's a tough end to an otherwise successful road trip. Hopefully the Suns are game for the first 3 quarters, but in the end I think the home team wins pretty easily. 102-90, Pacers.