The Indiana Pacers got by the Phoenix Suns in large part due to a 9-0 run halfway through the fourth quarter that finally gave the Pacers the separation they needed to seal the victory. Despite the 109-94 final, the first 41 minutes was a back-and-forth affair where neither team was able to build or maintain any leads.
Though a large portion of this game was fairly poor basketball due to its large number of turnovers from both teams, but it was also one that was begging the Pacers to put a stamp on it. The Pacers spent much of the game trying to out-talent the Suns, but their mistakes forced them to play from behind for large stretches in the first half, and timely shooting from Phoenix kept the Indiana lead to a minimum in the second half.
The Pacers had 18 turnovers, which more than anything took away opportunities for the Pacers to put the game in hand. While Indiana was sloppy with the ball, they were on point defending off of those turnovers by only allowing Phoenix to score six points. Indiana meanwhile, scored 22 points off of 21 Phoenix turnovers.
Another key factor in the Pacers win was their ability to get to the free throw line. Despite early frustration in not getting the calls they were looking for, Indiana continued to attack, working their way to the free throw line for a season high 41 attempts. Indiana converted on 32, but each of those nine misses felt amplified due to the score and Indiana’s inability to find separation on the Suns.
The game was Indiana’s fourth straight game of 35 free throw attempts, which has gone a long way in helping the Pacers find free points. It’s been a boost to Paul George in particular, who has shot 23 free throws in the last two games, including 10 tonight as part of his 25-point night.
Tonight was George’s best overall performance since returning from his injury, not only leading the Pacers in scoring, but was key in limiting Suns leading scorer Devin Booker to 13 points. George had a double double on the night with 13 rebounds, also coming away with three of the team’s 11 steals.
Myles Turner scored 20 points on 7-11 shooting with a pair of blocks, but for the first time in his career, found consistency from three point range, hitting 3-4 from distance, bolstering a Pacers team that struggled with three point shooting on a 7-23 night.
Building that shot into a consistent threat isn’t the final step in Turner’s growth, but will be a lethal addition. It will be especially lethal on a team that needs three point shooting. The Pacers had only 16 assists on the night, but with the second unit there were opportunities for easy three point looks that unfortunately ended up with Rodney Stuckey.
Stuckey had a good night with 12 points on attacking, but missed both of his three pointers. The unfortunate note is that ball movement can’t reliably save the Pacers from a lack of shooting, even more on nights where C.J. Miles goes 0-5 from three point range. Al Jefferson led the bench with 15 points, getting to the free throw line eight times, overcoming a 1-4 start from the line with four consecutive makes.
All seven three pointers came from the starters, including one each from George, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, and Thaddeus Young. Teague did play extremely well as the true second option to George tonight, scoring 19 points while sending out 11 assists. Young was quiet for much of the night, but hit a big corner three and had an all-out hustle offensive rebound late in the fourth to sink any Phoenix comeback.
Despite the frustrations for much of the game, the Pacers came through when they needed to in order to secure the win. Indiana threatened to allow the Suns to outplay them for a second game this season, but unlike Indiana’s loss at home, Phoenix was never able to capitalize off of Indiana’s mistakes, leaving the door open for the Pacers despite their best efforts.
When Indiana finally did take advantage of the opportunity, they looked like the team they should have looked like all night, a team that is playing towards higher aspirations than the Suns are this year. That same effort to close tonight’s game needs to be on display when the Pacers wrap up their road trip against the Dallas Mavericks.
Not only is a 3-2 road record in play despite a pair of lopsided losses in Portland and Golden State, but it’s in play against another team the Pacers are simply better than. Putting the game in order early also gives the opportunity for extra race as the Pacers will return home on a second night of a back-to-back against the Trail Blazers.