A 17-point Indiana Pacers lead proved to be just enough against the Phoenix Suns, who came surging back late, pulling to within five points with a minute to go. Monta Ellis came up with a huge jumper to respond, giving Indiana a seven point lead. The Suns would eventually cut the lead to three, but Ellis hit a pair of free throws to ice in the final seconds.
The Pacers did all they could to give their win away tonight, but a 15-0 run early provided Indiana enough of a cushion to keep them from completely collapsing. Defensively the Pacers had an impressive night, holding Phoenix to 34.6% shooting, but 13 offensive rebounds and a 27-29 night from the line kept Phoenix within sight even when they were down 20.
Having Phoenix outscore Indiana 29-15 to close the game was hardly encouraging, but without the play of their rookies, it almost assuredly would've been a loss. Myles Turner came up with a crucial block late as he and Joe Young led a bench that outscored Phoenix 44-24. Turner was automatic in the first half as part of his 15 point (7-11 shooting), four rebound, and four block night.
Young also reached double figures with 11 points and five assists with a pair of steals, playing well in the second quarter especially, but a lot of Young plays to end the third did their best to kill Indiana momentum, as the Suns closed the third on a 10-0 run. But he wasn't given much help in the late stages of the third. C.J. Miles had nine points, but shot poorly from three (1-7).
While Chase Budinger and Solomon Hill couldn't offer much in the way of offense, the bench did find a groove early in the fourth to help push a 10-point lead back to 17 thanks to plays on the glass. While Jordan Hill only had seven, he, Budinger, and Miles combined for 18 rebounds, six of those offensive, including four second chance points early in the fourth.
In a way, the game changed with the exit of Ian Mahinmi towards the end of the first half. Mahinmi had just two rebounds and no points in 11 minutes of action before spraining his ankle, but Indiana's defense was not on the same level without him. Phoenix came up with all 13 of their offensive rebounds after Mahinmi left. And with Golden State looming, Mahinmi's availability could be crucial.
The Pacers were led in scoring by Monta Ellis, who had 20 points, but most importantly, came up with four big points at the end of the game. Paul George scored 19, but also had eight rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Glenn Robinson III reached double figures for the fourth time this season, scoring 10 on 3-4 shooting. Lavoy Allen had just four, but hit a big bucket late, also pulling down seven rebounds.
Getting back in the win column was paramount for the Pacers, but many of the same issues that resulted in recent close losses came up tonight. Fortunately for Indiana, tonight, they not only made enough shots to keep Phoenix at arm's length, but did some things defensively even if failure to rebound led to a pair of killer Devin Booker three pointers.
Indiana is given no small task for Friday night as they travel north to Oakland to face the league best 38-4 Golden State Warriors. The Warriors torched the Pacers in their previous meeting, but at least Indiana won't be heading into this meeting on a losing streak. Though, even if Indiana is in position to hand Golden State their first home loss of the season, what's the confidence level in their play late in games being able to hold up? Indiana will need big efforts from all available parties to make it back-to-back wins.