As fun as it was staying up late to watch the Indiana Pacers play Golden State, it was the opposite tonight with the Pacers getting shot out of the building by the Phoenix Suns. From the outset, Indiana was in a precarious position as the Suns stormed out of the gate, hitting six of their first seven shots en route to a 30 point first quarter. Indiana did their best to keep pace, scoring 29, but as the Pacers waited for Phoenix to come back down to earth, the Suns pushed their lead to 13 on a 14-2 run to open the second quarter.
The Suns found success offensively attacking off of the pick and roll, and their success driving at the hoop resulted in numerous whistles against the Pacers. The Suns shot 18 free throws in the first half, though missing seven, they were still at a decided advantage when getting to the line. Phoenix also burnt the Pacers out in transition, outscoring Indiana 25-5. The Pacers did their best to chip away, but everything came up right for Phoenix, who just clobbered anything that might resemble quality defensive play by Indiana.
Phoenix used a 10-2 run out of the half to push the game into the 20's, leading by as many as 24 before the Pacers managed to push the game back to 13 or 14, but every push ended the same way: more points by the Suns. The Suns finished it off with a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to double a 13 point game to 26, and with that, the game was mercifully over, pending some extended garbage time. But as the old saying goes, "If Ish Smith is that, take your lumps and move on to the next one."
And if Phoenix is going to have their best offensive night of the season, there's no better game than against the league's best. They scored a season high 124 and 54.2%, their second best (though they were well on pace to reach a season high in FG% at 60% a good portion of the night). It was just the second time the Suns went over 120 and just the second time they've shot above 52%. They shot 11-16 from three point range, their first night all season above 50% from three point range, and had a top 10 night in free throw attempts. In other words? Good luck winning that one. Everything that could break right for Phoenix did.
While Indiana's defense could've certainly been better in some areas, as they were prone to getting caught on some ticky tack fouls, but there's no way any sort of defense would make up a 24-point deficit against a team that was as keyed in as the Suns were tonight. Phoenix did a solid job throughout the night disrupting Indiana's offensive rhythm with their own physical brand of defense, which held the Pacers to just 14 assists on the night.
Despite that, the Pacers still had one of their best shooting nights of the season, shooting 50.7%. The difference came on Phoenix's, which opened up easier buckets off of fast breaks, as well their success in forcing turnovers and scoring off of turnovers. The Pacers turned it over 21 times and allowed 27 points off turnovers. Being -6 in three pointers made doesn't help either, but it was a night well worth forgetting.
Gerald Green clearly had tonight's game circled, or he was well within his hot shooting cycle, taking the Pacers behind the tool shed for 23 points on 6-13 shooting, including 10 free throw attempts. Green got plenty of help from Goran Dragic who scored 21 as all five starters reached double figures, including 11 from Miles Plumlee. Markieff Morris led the bench with 20 points.
For the Pacers, Paul George played as well as he could given the circumstances, scoring 26 on 10-19 shooting, but his struggles from three point range couldn't give Indiana the extra dimension they needed to get back in the game. George Hill struggled against Dragic throughout the night, but did a solid job getting back at Dragic, especially in the third quarter. Hill scored 16 points on 4-4 shooting, living at the free throw line for 7-8 shooting.
Roy Hibbert fouled out for just the third time this season with just six points and four rebounds, trying too hard to limit the penetrating Phoenix offense. It's just the seventh time Hibbert has picked up five or six fouls. All seven games have been on the road and Pacers are, unsurprisingly, 3-4 when he isn't a defensive force. David West played exceptionally well early, but spraining his hand in the first quarter hurt his overall impact, though he was still effective, scoring 13 points on 6-11 shooting. Danny Granger had a solid first half, but blanked in the second half and Luis Scola had some flashes, but did not play all too well with Granger's seven first half points being a bench high for the night.
In the end, it was just that kind of night. The NBA schedule guarantees these kinds of games, these kinds of losses, and for Phoenix, these kinds of wins. There's not always a greater significance in every game, and the play of both teams through the first half of the season suggests this is one of those ones to simply move on from if you're the Pacers. To the Suns credit, this is another impressive home win for them and as a team looking for some consistency without Eric Bledsoe, they stand the most to gain from this game. For Indiana, it was the first time since December 16 they allowed triple digits and at a still league best 33-8, the only team sitting under 10 losses, have little reason to hang their heads low.
They'll get a chance next Thursday to get a win at home against these Suns, but they've got three more games in their current road trip to fight through, beginning Friday against the Sacramento Kings. As badly as the Pacers got blown out tonight, there are always teams that have it worse. An Achilles injury to Rudy Gay with DeMarcus Cousins also falling victim to a left ankle sprain could spread some doubt about their availability for Friday's game, putting them in a potentially difficult position for their own revenge game against the Pacers.