The Pacers had plenty of issues that led to the 105-97 loss, but gift-wrapping 25 turnovers to the worst defense in the league boils much of the analysis down to that one glaring issue as the difference between winning and losing.
The Suns have willingly given up over 111 points per 100 possessions so far this season, but the Pacers began the game hesitant to attack the weak middle of the Phoenix defense. T.J. Ford changed the tone off the bench having some early success in the lane and the Pacers started getting a little offensive flow. They were able to get to the rim and run successful plays for open looks. The only thing that stood between the Pacers and a win was execution.
With a double-digit lead in the second quarter it seemed like a matter of time before the Pacers would blow the game open and cruise home with a nice win. Instead a missed layup here, a fumbled dribble there, a horrid pass everywhere and soon enough the Suns were full of life and knocking down shots.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Pacers finally relinquished the lead and eventually were playing from behind. They continued to make it tough on themselves right to the end of the game with the poor play and just like that, the Pacers let a W drift on over to the Suns. No need for a gift receipt because they won't give it back now.
This will be a game that haunts the Pacers all season as they appear destined to hover around .500 all year which will put them in a fight for the playoffs with several teams. At this time last week, I would've taken a 2-2 trip without hesitation, but tonight with the poorly executed game plan this one loss stings badly, not soothed by zooming out to the bigger picture.
After the jump, we'll take a look at everyone's contributions to this loss because as I said above, there were plenty of little things to go along with those big turnover numbers.
- Overall, the most maddening thing about the turnovers was how many came on really poor post-entry passes or attempted passes over the top to a player at the rim. Even some of the passes that didn't turn into immediate turnovers missed badly enough to take away any position the player might've had with the ball. Several, just stare-down, force the ball in passes or reacting late to an open cutter only to try to make the pass anyway. Stuff that would make a grade-school team blush with embarrassment.
- Channing Frye scored a season-high 29 points for Phoenix making several bombs from around the arc, most of which didn't involve a defender. He "only" made 5 3-pointers but had a few other makes just inside the arc. In fact, a couple were just a poor job by Frye of leaving his toe on the line.
- Josh McRoberts started the game on fire, scoring 10 points early before finishing with 16 points and 9 rebounds. The Suns were leaving him be and he made them pay a few times by making 4 of 6 3-pointers himself. But the Suns would end up being rewarded for letting McRoberts handle the ball so much since he coughed up 8 turnovers on the night. J-Mac is skilled enough to make some plays but he also struggles trying to make plays that just aren't there.
- Roy Hibbert fell into early foul trouble and never established himself in the post against the thin, Phoenix front line. The Pacers had some first-half success going small but were forced to play small for too many minutes and simply couldn't execute well enough to make it work.
- Danny Granger was essentially a no-show tonight. I realize he has been sick for the bulk of the trip and often looked completely worn out in the second half. But he did play 35 minutes and just couldn't get anything going finishing with 8 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor. There was no bounce in his game and he did nothing to energize the offense, instead looking like Dwyane Wade playing with LeBron James, just standing around.
- Darren Collison started out shaky and just got worse from there. The Suns could not handle the Pacers when they took it to the hoop, but with Collison running the point to start the game the Pacers settled for a lot of jumpers. DC wasn't able to get into the lane himself and then was a wreck in the second half after sitting. Among his 5 turnovers was a costly late-game theft by Goran Dragic when DC simply didn't protect his dribble and spoon-fed the ball to Dragic.
- At one point in the first half, it looked like T.J. Ford would be the one carrying the Pacers to the win. After replacing Collison, he was able to get in the lane and create some easy bucket. It was like he broke the seal for his teammates as they started to attack the Suns' soft, interior defense. But that level of play didn't hold up past halftime and before long, Ford was getting stuck in the lane and then adding to his problems by trying to jump and make a play.
- Mike Dunleavy and James Posey were effective on a couple of different stints off the bench, at least offensively. Dunleavy was one guy who continued to move and found himself with a few easy layups for his effort. One of those layups came after Dunleavy circled around the floor while it looked like his teammates were just standing there watching him. I wondered if any of them noticed the success he has by staying in motion. Apparently not.
- Brandon Rush started again to matchup with the athletic Jason Richardson. Rush turned in a solid effort that included a season-high 21 points and once again a handful of nice finishes at the rim. Rush is starting to produce consistently and needs to keep it up. He's purely a support player and won't be carrying the team to many wins, but continuing to produce like tonight will make a huge difference when his teammates actually show up.
- The Pacers shot 47% from the floor which is usually good enough for a win, especially when holding a team like the Suns to 45%. But those 25 turnovers were good for 26 Phoenix points, which again, STINKS! The maddening play makes is hard to believe the Pacers led the bulk of this game and remained in viable contention to pull out a win until late in the fourth quarter when they just couldn't make a play to save themselves.
- The Pacers blew a chance to sit atop the Central Division standings since the Chicago Bulls also lost to the Boston Celtics. The teams in the chase with the Pacers had a pretty good night with New York, Charlotte and Toronto all winning. The Pacers take on the Raptors back home at Conseco Fieldhouse on Monday. Hopefully they're feeling a little less charitable when they take the court.