Preview: Suns (24-14) at Pacers (12-25)

Pacers 122, Suns 114





PHOENIX — The Suns hit the road today, starting a four-game trip with a contest in Indiana. But will the Suns’ issues with blowing leads continue in the East?

That’s the question on everybody’s mind after Phoenix spent a month blowing every kind of lead imaginable. From Dec. 11 to Jan. 11, the Suns blew leads of 24, 20 (twice), 19, 17, 16, 15 and 13. Those aren’t just double-digit leads, those are MONSTER leads.

The worst part is that just as teams now expect to win the battle of the boards handily and put points on the board when they play against Phoenix, now teams must feel like they can come back against the Suns even if they’re down by 30. That’s Chicago Bulls territory right there.

“It’s been a reoccurring theme where we come out and play well to start a game and we get a nice lead, we get a good rhythm, the other team is struggling to cope, and then we let them off the hook, they start to build momentum, and then we have a fight on our hands,” said Suns guard Steve Nash.

No lead will be safe in this game not only because the Suns are involved but also because both teams play at lightning-fast paces. The Pacers rank second in the NBA with an average of 100.0 possessions per game, and the Suns rank fourth at 98.8.

However, Indiana is not so efficient with all those possessions, ranking 26th in offensive efficiency (98.3 points per 100). The Suns lead that category with an average of 111.6 pp100.

The Pacers are no pushover in Conseco Fieldhouse, compiling a 9-9 record in their building, which is great compared to their 3-16 record away from Indiana. Amare Stoudemire certainly doesn’t mind the gym, as the last time the Suns visited he played his best regular-season game as a pro, racking up 49 points on 17-for-21 shooting to go with 11 boards, six assists, five steals and two blocks.

Oddly enough, the Pacers rallied from 23 down to win their last game in the building on Monday against Toronto by the same exact score that Phoenix beat Milwaukee by two days ago, 105-101.

That game was only the latest example of the Suns blowing a major lead, after which Nash put his team’s struggles in perspective. Phoenix certainly has some problems to fix, but at the same time a team widely thought to be on the outside of the playoff picture before the season started is percentage points out of the No. 3 seed in the West as we begin play tonight.

“I think at times we’ve had a killer instinct, and we’ve just kind of been too complacent or relaxed the last month or so,” Nash said. “We have some work to do. At the same time we’re doing pretty well. For us to be where we are is a great accomplishment.”

During this last month the Suns have been an equal-opportunity lead-blowing team, giving up five big leads at home and three away.

Can a trip back East be the solution to the Suns’ in-game complacency?

“Maybe that’s it, but maybe it’s not,” Jason Richardson said. “Whatever the situation is we need to figure it out.”

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