It was a tale of two halves in Indianapolis tonight. The Suns were on fire in the first half and thoroughly owned the Pacers, dropping a season high 66 points on them. The Pacers made a game of it in the third quarter by ratcheting up the defensive intensity and finally getting some shots to fall. That intensity continued into the 4th quarter. Despite a run by the Suns to get the lead up to 11 early, Indiana continued to keep the game close, cutting the lead to 1 on a few occasions.
But at the end of the night, the Suns NEVER TRAILED TO THE PACERS AT HOME. (Ed. note: I got excited. The Suns trailed 2-0 and 6-4 in the first quarter. But they led from the 7:44 mark on. Please don't sue me.) Despite only scoring 36 points in the second half, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Indiana Pacers by a score of 102-94. Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson both made their displeasure known about the All-Star reserve selections with monster games. Stephenson had a triple double (14 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds), while The Dragon abused George Hill to the tune of 28 points and 7 assists. Gerald Green and Marcus Morris had 16 apiece and Markieff Morris finished with 15. For the Pacers, Roy Hibbert had the big game with 26 points. P.J. Tucker was on Paul George like white on rice, holding the All-Star to 12 points on 5-17 shooting.
It was a good if tense night, Suns fans. Read on for the details and celebrate!
This game figured to be a great duel between a pair of All-Star snubbees in Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson. Both players came out with aggressive drives to the hoop. Stephenson's resulted in an assist to David West for a lay-up and Dragi? with an and-1 that he missed the FT on. The refs made their presence felt early and often. Luis Scola made an early appearance when David West picked up 2 fouls in the first 2 minutes. Indiana was also careless with the ball, committing 3 turnovers in the first 3 minutes. The Suns were unable to capitalize though. Dragi? did not seemed to affected by the elbow early, driving fearlessly into the lane early. He was clearly looking to take the game to the Pacers.
After falling behind 6-4, Goran Dragi? and Gerald Green went on a 9-0 run to take a 13-6 lead and forcing Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout. Indiana hung tough crashing the offensive boards, but the Suns played tough D and attacked the Pacers in the paint punctuated by a Gerald Green dunk and P.J. Tucker fast-break floater, maintaining the 8 point lead.
At the 3:30 mark, Pacers' guard Lance Stephenson left the game with an unknown injury. The Suns' aggressiveness in the paint bit them a bit when Tucker was called for a charge, allowing Indiana to close the gap to 4, 21-17 on a pair of Roy Hibbert free throws on the following possession. Tucker made up for it on a wide-open layup on a pretty pass from Marcus Morris.
The Pacers ran a considerable amount of their offense through Hibbert to limited effect. He had 11 points on 11 shots in the first quarter. On the other end, the Pacers had no answer for the Suns' shooters. The Suns' shot 62.5% including for 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Dragi? and Green led the Suns with 8 and 7. Leandro Barbosa capped a 15-2 onslaught with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Phoenix a 36-19 lead.
Did I mention Channing Frye yet? He had 5 first quarter rebounds and 5 points and started the second with some nice transition defense to prevent an easy Pacers bucket. Indiana tried to go on a run scoring 5 quick points to start the quarter, but the Suns were having none of it. The Suns's offensive plan seemed to be "Run, Run, Run!" and responded with 4 points of their own. Lance Stephenson returned to the game looking to take over, scoring 4 straight points to cut the Suns' lead to 14 points at 42-28.
Man, this game was aggressive. Dragi? missed a mid-range jumper at 7:48 and Phoenix stayed after it, with Marcus Moris, Alex Len and Dragi? all getting offensive rebounds and finally resulting in a Gerald Green 3-pointer. An Indiana turnover on the next possession resulted in a Marcus Morris fast break dunk to extend the Suns lead to 47-30. The Suns' lead grew to as much as 19. Again, Indiana tried to start a run, but could not stop the Dragon. The Dragon hit a jumper, assisted Marcus Morris on a jumper and then hit 2 free throws to maintain the 19 point cushion.
Markieff "The Barometer" Morris was hampered by foul trouble early, but Marcus more than picked up the slack with a heat wave of this own, scoring 10 first half points on 5 of 9 shooting. The Suns and Goran Dragi? dominated the half, going to the break with a 66-49 lead. The Suns shot 52.8% to 40.0% for Indiana. Dragic was unstoppable. He finished the half with 21 points on 8-12 shooting and 5 assists. The Lance Stephenson, also with a message for the All-Star voters, was on pace for his 4th triple double of the season, recording 12 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Roy Hibbert had 15 to lead the Pacers' scorers. P.J.Tucker was effective on the Pacers' leading scorer, holding Paul George to 4 points on 2-7 shooting.
The Suns kept the pressure up in the second half with Dragi? missing a jumper and Miles Plumlee missing the 1-handed putback. Not to be deterred, the Dragon drove and dished to Plumlee for an easy jam on their next possession to push the lead back to 19. Indiana put together a 6-0 run to get it to 70-57, but P.J. Tucker drew a shooting foul and hit 1 of 2 to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, he gave it back by drawing a technical foul for taunting the Pacers' bench afterwards. On the ensuing possession, Paul George completed an and-1 to get the lead down to 10. Plumlee missed then missed a dunk, and then the Suns gave up an offensive rebound to Roy Hibbert allowing him to score. All in all, it was a 12-1 run by the Pacers to get the Suns' advantage down to 71-63. Would the wheels continue to come off?
Yes. Yes, they would. Roy Hibbert continued to have his way inside scoring 8 straight points and the Pacers' defense was smothering, allowing Indiana to draw within 4 points at 75-71. After a Suns' bucket, Dragi? drew a technical after getting called for a phantom reach-in. He was benched for Ish Smith shortly afterwards. David West made a pair of foul shots to cut the lead to 3.
It was a brutal quarter for the Suns, who only made 5 of their 19 field goal attempts (26.3%) and got outscored 25-11. The good news is that they maintained their lead, 77-74.
C.J. Watson hit a lay-up to start the fourth quarter and got the lead all the way down to 1 point. After exchanging some free throws, Marcus Morris nailed a 3-ball to put the Suns up 82-77. The Suns forced turnovers on Indiana's next 2 possessions leading to a Barbosa floater over Ian Mahinmi to get the lead back to 7. In the face of intense defense and a hostile Fieldhouse crowd, the Suns seemed to be maintaining their composure early in the fourth. A Marcus Morris and-1 allowed the Suns to get the lead back into double digits, but the Pacers answered with a 12-2 run to get it back to 91-90 with 4:20 remaining.
As Indiana continued to threaten, Gerald Green went to work, hitting a pair of free throws and long jumper to help Phoenix maintain its suddenly fragile lead. The unusually quiet Markieff Morris hit a big 3 pointer with just under 3 minutes left to go to put the Suns back up by 6. George Hill posted up Dragi? to make it 98-94 with 1:28 left in the game. But as always, The Dragon had an answer! P.J. Tucker trapped Paul George in the corner, forcing him into an awkward 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired. The long rebound led to a one-man fast break ending in a Dragon Dunk to give the Suns a 100-94 lead with a mere 44.8 seconds left in regulation. Roy Hibbert, after a tremendous night, bricked 2 free throws on the ensuing possession and that was it for the Pacers.
Suns win 102-94!