Preview: Pacers (20-42) at Suns (39-25)

Suns 113, Pacers 105



PHOENIX — On a Daily Dime chat this week, we were talking about how well the Suns bounced back from what could have been a crushing loss to San Antonio with big wins over Denver and the Clippers.

A commenter was impressed with how resilient the Suns have been this year, but really — like everything else — the Suns have only been so resilient for half the season.

Back during their December-January funk, losses begat losses, and a blown game like the one the Suns suffered Thursday against Utah could ruin a week.

However, the Suns have not lost consecutive games since dropping a pair Jan. 25-26 to cap a stretch of seven losses in nine games. Since then, the Suns followed their only three losses with resounding victories.

With how Jekyll and Hyde the Suns’ season has been, Phoenix fans have got to hope Thursday’s loss didn’t flip a switch in the negative direction like how the Jan. 28 win over Dallas seemed to spark the Suns’ last month-plus of stellar play.

“This team has a lot of character,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We’ll snap back.”

On one hand, they have the perfect opponent in Indiana, but this is a trap game if there ever was one.

The Pacers are flat-out horrible. Only the Nets sport a worse record in the East, and Indiana is a putrid 7-26 on the road after losing last night in Denver. The Pacers have lost 10 of 12 overall and five in a row on the road, with this being the vaunted fourth game in five nights on the road. Watch the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Suns game to see what that kind of schedule can do to a team’s legs.

Not only that, but the Suns have five full days off — a second All-Star break you could say — after this one, and their first opponent back is none other than the world champion Lakers. This is such a trap game on paper that it’s almost not a trap game, if that makes any sense.

This is also a more difficult game than you would think at first glance because the Suns are not far from playing this game without a point guard. Steve Nash’s back and abdomen are ailing as much as they ever have, so this break is certainly coming at a perfect time. Tonight MVSteve will be slated for a heavy workload with Goran Dragic likely to miss this one with a sprained ankle and Leandro Barbosa still working his way back from wrist surgery.

Best-case scenario is a blowout win, with Nash sitting for the entirety of the fourth quarter and the Jared Dudley Era at point guard seeing its beginning and end.

But these are the Pacers, and wacky things have happened of late when these squads renew acquaintances.

The Suns blew a 24-point lead and ended up losing by eight in Indiana earlier this year, a “the sky is falling” kind of loss that came one game after Phoenix blew a 24-point lead at home to an undermanned Milwaukee team before pulling it out. Danny Granger went for 33 in that one and Mike Dunleavy 30 off the bench.

And of course later year in US Airways Center, Granger hit a three at the buzzer on a play that started with 0.9 seconds left, finishing off one of Phoenix’s toughest losses of the season.

When you look at Phoenix’s schedule this homestand, this is the one game along with the Minnesota contest that should be marked as an automatic win.

But with the point guard position so banged up and with the Suns being liable to suffer from a Utah hangover or a Lakers look ahead, all of a sudden a win over the 20-42 Pacers doesn’t sound so automatic.

“We need to make sure we keep our composure and just get ready to play the Pacers,” Amare Stoudemire said.

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