After collapsing late against the Lakers in Los Angeles, the Pacers are back in action on the road tonight in Phoenix, with Caris LeVert set to make his long-awaited debut after undergoing surgery to remove a small mass on his left kidney.
In last night’s post-game media availability, LeVert seemed unsure of whether he would automatically be inserted into the starting lineup, instead leaving those decisions up to Nate Bjorkgren and the training staff. Prior to tip-off, however, Bjorkgren said, “He’s good to go, I don’t have a minute restriction on him.”
Aside from LeVert, a lot has changed since the last time these two teams met in early January, when Victor Oladipo was still a Pacer and Aaron Holiday was still starting, matched up predominantly against Mikal Bridges, who scored a season-high 34 points on 18 shots. Of course, while Aaron’s lack of length at the (gulp) small forward position certainly played a role in why Bridges went off — doing what bigger wings have a tendency to do against the Pacers — Indiana also suffered from a number of miscommunications on switches and experimented with triangle-and-two for the first time, which allowed the 24-year-old wing to fill gaps in the zone while Chris Paul and Devin Booker were being shadowed, like so:
Flummoxed by Spain actions and confused by some of their own coverages, the Pacers gave up 35 points in the fourth quarter on over 60 percent shooting. All of which is to say that, now, with Phoenix on a five-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions, LeVert’s scoring burst and downhill playmaking will likely be much needed as a counterweight to whatever goes on at the other end of the floor. That is, depending on his level of rust and comfortability playing in a new system — especially on the second night of a back-to-back for the rest of the team.
Where: PHX Arena, Phoenix, AZ
When: 10:00 PM ET
TV: FOX Sports Indiana
Radio: 107.5 FM/AM 1070 The Fan
Projected Starting Lineups:
Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Justin Holiday, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Suns: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Frank Kaminsky*, Deandre Ayton
*Phoenix flexes Jae Crowder in and out of the starting lineup. He came off the bench Thursday against Portland.
IND: T.J. Warren (foot) - out, Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee) - out
(T.J. McConnell isn’t listed on the injury report, but he seemed like his left hand — or, maybe, his finger/thumb? — was bothering him late down the stretch last night. At the end of the third quarter, it looked like he may have jammed it making a play on defense. From then on, he was hesitant to attack going left and could be seen grabbing it several times after getting bumped. Keep an eye on this.)
PHX: Cameron Johnson (health and safety protocols) out, Devin Booker (knee) - probable
Enemy view: Bright Side of the Sun
Please leave your thoughts and observations on the game in the comments.