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Pacers final score: Suns scorch Pacers 117-104

Though Indiana managed to force Phoenix’s starters back into the game late, it was a blowout for much of the way, resulting in the third straight loss for the Pacers. Bennedict Mathurin led the way with 22 points.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers continue to look out of sorts, taking on another loss tonight, this time to the Phoenix Suns. The Pacers never led tonight, at least officially, after a Tyrese Haliburton corner three was wiped off the board four minutes after it counted for stepping out of bounds. The score at that particular point of the game was 12-10 in favor of the Suns after Josh Okogie gave Phoenix the lead on a three.

Once the Haliburton triple was ruled invalid, the score updated to 12-7. Torrey Craig hit his own three, suddenly making it a 15-7 game. That sort of six-point swing seemed to be the theme of the night for Indiana, who just never looked comfortable, at least until garbage time in the fourth quarter.

The bench did a lot of the heavy lifting tonight, not only in the fourth, but in the first half as well. Phoenix had taken a 23-9 lead when the second unit began coming into the game. T.J. McConnell scored seven and Bennedict Mathurin drove to the basket for his first two points, helping Indiana to close the quarter on a 15-7 run that drew them within six.

Mathurin opened the second with an and-one opportunity, cutting the lead to three, but Devin Booker keyed up a response, hitting back-to-back three son a 9-0 Suns run that put them back up by double figures. Indiana had their runs, but whether it was a six point wall, an 11 point wall, or an 18 point wall, the stopping point for those runs kept getting further and further away.

That was partially due to a rather poor offensive showing from just about every part of the floor. Phoenix was successful shutting down the paint, holding Indiana to 16 paint points in the first half on 50% shooting, and the Pacers weren’t able to open things up with their shooting, going 6-24 from three in the half.

They did shoot 59% in the third, scoring 30 points, but their defense couldn’t answer the call, allowing 35 points as Phoenix extended their advantage to 21 points late in the quarter, effectively calling it a night for the Pacers. What’s that? Not so fast? Well, the Suns led 107-81 midway through the fourth when Isaiah Jackson helped the Pacers climb back into it, scoring 14 points in the fourth, cutting the lead in half and forcing the Suns starters back into the game.

The Pacers couldn’t get any closer, but as far as moral victories go, that’s fine. Jackson finished the game with 14 points, only getting run in the fourth. He had a couple of bad fouls and was just 3-7 at the free throw line, but played very well, set up time and time again by Andrew Nembhard, even hitting his second three of the season.

With Daniel Theis still on the team post trade deadline, it’ll be an interesting juggling act with how Rick Carlisle handles his rotations. While Carlisle favors the veteran at this point (Theis had six points and a block in 15 minutes), there’s no extra dimension with his play compared to Jackson, just far fewer surprises.

Among other positives came from Mathurin, who had 22 points on 7-15 shooting tonight, getting to the line seven times, making all of his attempts. He logged a team high 32 minutes, so whatever concerns were fabricated due to his limited minutes against Miami appear to not be a concern any longer.

Only two starters reached double figures tonight, led by Haliburton with 18. Haliburton had just nine shot attempts, but was 7-9, including 2-4 from three. While Buddy Hield provided four made threes in 11 attempts, Haliburton’s willingness to pass tonight was largely unrewarded, amounting to just five assists and four turnovers. The remaining starters; Nembhard, Myles Turner, and Aaron Nesmith were a combined 3-19 shooting and 2-10 from three.

Turner was the high man of those three with seven points and five rebounds (Nembhard finished with nine assists and zero points), a tough night for him after a solid 16 & 12 in Arizona. DeAndre Ayton meanwhile led the Suns with 22 points and 12 rebounds, five on the offensive end, helping Phoenix to 26 second chance points. The Suns also dominated the game in points off turnovers, beating Indiana 26-10 despite losing the turnover battle.

The loss drops the Pacers to 25-32 on the year, a game and a half back of the Washington Wizards, the team they’ll face tomorrow night. It’s hard to tell what the exact cause of Indiana’s woes since Haliburton’s injury have been, whether it’s all on that, the much tougher schedule, or simply wearing down as the All-Star Game approaches, but tomorrow night will be a good opportunity for an Indiana team that has lost 10 straight road games to snap that streak before the break.